Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mayor Jim Ruberto - A Pittsfield Regime of Perverse Societal Outcomes! Also see Andrea Nuciforo, Denis Guyer, Carmen Massimiano.

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www.iberkshires.com/images/site_images/stories/25612.jpg
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"Ruberto Details Plans for Success", By Jen Thomas, -iBerkshires.com-, January 07, 2008
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www.iberkshires.com/story.php?story_id=25612
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www.openmass.org/locals/show/1724
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www.pittsfield-ma.org
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsfield,_Massachusetts
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"...Pittsfield had a 2.2 percent drop in average employment. The state averaged a 3.2 percent decrease in the past five years [between 2001 and 2006], according to the report."

Source: (News Article: "Job growth is up locally: But state ranks 49th in U.S.", By Hillary Chabot, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Wednesday, November 28, 2007).

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"Total employment in Berkshire County is down by 1,780 people, or 2.5 percent, in the past year while the labor force has shrunk by more than 600. That means discouraged workers are giving up, the population exodus is probably accelerating, and one out of four residents between 15 and 24 flee the county each year!"

Source: "Economy fracturing at all levels", A Berkshire Eagle Column by By Clarence Fanto, Sunday, March 30, 2008.

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"Will City Council end free lunches?"
THe Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

With regard to a Pittsfield Gazette online article, "Cinema costs soar, again," www.pittsfieldgazette.com, if this isn't the last straw I don't know what is!

It's my firm belief that the mayor is on a personal mission to leave office with a zero balance in the GE, PCB settlement fund account. Taxpayer relief, (residential or commercial) is simply not in his vocabulary. How many more "free lunches" can Pittsfield sustain? Tax incentive packages to businesses that barely skirt the criteria of qualification. Economic Development Fund handouts to developers who present original plans indicating "no public funding." Designating special districts of the city and granting code waivers that benefit wealthy campaign contributors. "Feel good" million dollar giveaways to tax-exempt entities that applied for matching grant funds without having first raised the required matching portion.

When will the City Council stand up for the people that elected them and say "Enough is Enough"?

DAVID J. POTTS
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Sneaky way to raise revenues"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, January 11, 2008

I completely agree with David Ockerhausen's letter ("No justification for evaluation," Jan. 8) regarding the property valuations. My property increased in value $50,000 in three years! No way! This is an underhanded way to increase tax revenue without increasing taxes.

Property values are at their lowest levels since 1991, according to professionals. If you feel your property is overvalued, you can file for an abatement by getting a form from the assessor's office in City Hall and filing it by the tax due date.

CHARLIE BROWNE
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"City tax hike latest burden"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Heating oil, $4.50 a gallon (just to keep warm), Gas for the car, $4 a gallon (just to drive to work). Milk, $4 a gallon (just to have something on the table). The mayor's proposed property tax increase of 4.2 percent — priceless!

Seniors on fixed incomes will be watching this City Council vote very closely to see which councilors vote in favor of this new increase. Mr. Mayor, if this property tax increase passes it will put you over the 20 percent increase in property tax since you and the present City Council took office.

Priceless!

THOMAS D. GILARDI
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Bump looks to address job losses in Berkshires

2/19/2007

By: Karen Honikel

Governor Deval Patrick's new Executive Director of Workforce Development isn't wasting any time getting down to business.

Former State Representative Suzanne Bump is working to introduce herself to the local business communities and let them know she will make sure the Berkshires are not forgotten on Beacon Hill. She says a major concern right now is addressing the loss of jobs in the Berkshires.

Currently the Berkshires have the highest rate of job loss in Massachusetts. Bump says this can be changed with the right policies in place. She says she will be meeting with the Governor once a week to work on bringing skilled workers and higher paying jobs into the area.

Bump says a key part to local job growth and development will be finding a way to keep the younger workers in the Berkshires.

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Layoffs in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Legacy will cut 10 jobs locally
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Legacy Bankcorp Inc. announced yesterday that it has eliminated 10 positions in an attempt to strengthen the company and its bottom line.

J. Williar Dunlaevy, Legacy Banks chairman and chief executive officer, said the positions — seven of which are managerial, are all based in the company's administrative offices in Pittsfield.

"Strategically, we recognize that business changes over the course of time, and we need to adapt," he said. "We can be more efficient. These are all good people. This is a strategic initiative, and the bank will be stronger because of this, a little leaner, a little stronger."

Severance packages in place

The employees received benefits continuation and severance packages based on length of service and position, a total of about $438,000.

Dunlaevy said the company is also providing "outplacement support" to help the employees secure new jobs.

Legacy Banks completed its acquisition of five full-service branch offices of First Niagara Bank in eastern New York on Dec. 7. The $9.8 million deal brought with it $76,629,000 of deposit liabilities and bumped the company up to roughly $600 million in total deposits.

Headquartered in Pittsfield, Legacy employs 186 people in 16 offices throughout Massachusetts and eastern New York, as well as a loan office in Colonie, N.Y.

Looking at Connecticut

Company officials have expressed interest in possible expansions in Northwestern Connecticut and other New York areas within a 150-mile radius of Pittsfield.

Dunlaevy said neither the First Niagara acquisition nor the subprime mortgage meltdown of this past year contributed to the cuts.

"These cuts have nothing to do with the First Niagara move. We would've made these changes if we had made that deal or not," he said. "And they're unrelated to the subprime. We needed to adapt to remain healthy."

To reach Benning W. De La Mater: bdelamater@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6243.

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American Medical Response laying off 35, closing doors in Pittsfield

By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle

The North Adams Transcript Online

Saturday, October 13, 2007

PITTSFIELD — American Medical Response, one of two emergency medical response companies in Pittsfield, will close its local operation as of Dec. 31.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the company distributed layoff notices to its 35 full- and part-time employees. According to one employee, who wished to remain unnamed, the company was in the midst of contract negotiations with local union officials at the time.

Even though the city of Pittsfield has two emergency response companies handling calls, the city has nevertheless had to seek emergency aid from neighboring towns when crews are spread too thin.

But Pittsfield acting Fire Chief James Sullivan said the loss of AMR emergency response teams should not affect the city's ability to respond to emergencies, as the other company contracted by the city, County Ambulance, is working to add equipment and personnel.

"I believe County is adding vehicles and personnel to meet the anticipated need," he said.

According to David Pelletier, general manager of the Western Massachusetts division of AMR, the company has been working in the Pittsfield area for more than 10 years, with a dispatch garage on West Housatonic Street.

By phone from his Springfield office, Pelletier attributed the closure to declining reimbursements from health insurance companies and Medicare and to the increased expense of doing business.

He said the closing should not reflect poorly on local AMR employees.

"We're very proud of the employees up there," he said. "They are hard workers and good people."

He said the company will be meeting with union representatives soon to discuss severance details.

"Declining reimbursements caused revenue declines. Expenses grew to exceed the income, which makes it hard to run a business unit," Pelletier said.

The ambulances will be "redeployed throughout our company," he added.

Another AMR employee, who also requested anonymity, said that many of the laid-off workers are applying for jobs at County Ambulance and have had favorable results. He declined to elaborate.

Brian Andrews, president of County Ambulance Service, said his company is indeed moving to pick up the slack left when AMR leaves.

AMR employees are being interviewed for "at least a dozen full-time openings and a few part-time slots," he said.

"AMR closing makes us a bigger company over here," Andrews said. "We know there is going to be a void, so we've already started the process buying more vehicles and interviewing their employees."

The family-owned County Ambulance, which has been working in Pittsfield since 1982, also has a new ambulance unit on the way and is in the process of purchasing others, although it is too early to determine exactly how many they will need.

The decline in reimbursements from insurance companies and Medicare, Andrews said, has been an issue for the industry, but hasn't had as much of an effect on County because "we're a small company, and we don't have a lot of that big corporate overhead."

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County Ambulance dispatchers Claire Shaw, foreground, and Maria Broderick, handle calls yesterday at the Wahconah Street office.
Photo by Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff
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News Article:
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Wave of calls seen
County Ambulance gearing up for a surge in volume
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, November 29, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Faced with the looming departure of a rival ambulance company, County Ambulance is adding staff and equipment as it prepares to confront a twofold increase in its emergency calls.

County Ambulance has spent more than $150,000 on new vehicles and hired 18 new employees to meet a 100 percent increase in 911 ambulance calls. But whether County will be equipped and staffed to meet upward of 5,000 emergency calls per year while still providing service to neighboring towns is a worry on the minds of emergency officials.

On Jan. 1, American Medical Response — which shares responsibility for 911 medical calls in Pittsfield — will cease to operate in the city, and County will become the sole emergency service provider.

County Ambulance President Brian Andrews said the 18 new hires were AMR employees who stood to lose their jobs; several of them will work as dispatchers. His company already has 15 emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, and paramedics on its 72-member staff, which also includes drivers of wheelchair-accessible vans under contract with the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.

Acting Fire Chief James Sullivan was circumspect about his concerns over County's capacity to fill the void left by AMR's departure.

"(Andrews) assures us he can pick up the slack," he said. "I am sure there will be times, if this remains with a single provider, that we will need to wait longer (for an ambulance), but Brian has assured us he is adding personnel and equipment."

Concerns about the strain

County also will be the only backup service to neighboring towns, whose volunteer ranks are thin, especially during weekday hours.

With County Ambulance possibly strained by Pittsfield calls, some of the towns are concerned that their safety net will evaporate. That prompted the Lanesborough Selectmen to approve hiring two full-time EMTs to staff the town ambulance on weekdays for a three-month trial period.

Lanesborough Fire Chief Charles Durfee said his ambulance squad answers 150 calls per year, and half of those are to the busy Berkshire Mall. On weekdays, County Ambulance typically handles the mall calls because Lanesborough rarely has two volunteers available.

Dalton Fire Chief Richard Kardasen is concerned that, if County is spread thin, Dalton employers will balk when their employees are summoned for more frequent volunteer calls.

"Everybody's worried about what's going to happen," Durfee said. "I've known (Andrews) for years, and he gets done what he sets out to do, but God bless him, it's a big feat to jump on."

But Andrews said he is confident and prepared for the scrutiny.

"We've been gearing up for this," he said this week. "We are confident with the numbers that we are where we need to be, and we have room to absorb more business."

County has added three new ambulances within the past six weeks, for a total of eight emergency vehicles. Andrews said AMR and County are cooperating during the transition, and that the new employees will not switch jobs until Jan. 1. AMR employs about 35 people in Pittsfield.

AMR announced plans earlier this fall to close down its Pittsfield operation, citing financial issues. Its local operation relies more heavily on health insurance and Medicare reimbursements than County, revenue sources that can be uncertain in a medical world dominated by cost controls.

Two other companies — Fall River-based Alert Ambulance Service and Pittsfield-based CRT, a transportation service for disabled passengers — have taken steps to enter the ambulance market in Pittsfield. But for now, neither is yet set up to handle calls.

CRT General Manager James Regan, a former ambulance company administrator, said he has hired eight EMTs and bought a used ambulance, investing about $32,000 so far.

He has projected a long-term investment of about $400,000 over time. With staff and equipment now in place, he said CRT is about to apply for a state license to provide ambulance service. He predicted his ambulance would be on the road in January, at first handling basic EMT calls.

Alert Ambulance is doing some legwork to explore the Pittsfield market, but no decisions have been made yet, said Anthony Suffriti, an Alert Ambulance manager based in Chicopee.

Both County Ambulance and AMR have been operating since 2004 without a formal contract for citywide ambulance coverage.

However, the two companies have continued to provide coverage under the terms of the old contract, alternating each call and guaranteeing 24-hour availability.

The contractual matter is now in the hands of the Pittsfield's Ambulance Commission and city solicitor, said Thomas Hickey Jr., commission chairman. Since the last contract expired, new state regulations are in place and are being evaluated prior to implementing a new contract.

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A Berkshire Eagle Editorial

Focus on city schools

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pittsfield has come a long way in the last few years, but to a large degree its ceiling is determined by the quality of its schools, and that ceiling is lower than it should be. If Pittsfield doesn't improve its schools, it will continue to be difficult to persuade businesses to move here and families to settle here. Local businesses won't have a ready supply of qualified employees, nor will Berkshire Community College have a viable number of qualified applicants.

As we read in Jenn Smith's article headlined "School Crossing" in the September 30 Eagle, the Pittsfield school system's struggles come at a time when there has been considerable movement among administrators. They are leaving for different reasons, but the city's inability to hold onto administrators is worrisome, and this instability makes if difficult if not impossible to design or fulfill long-term goals.

Superintendent Katherine E. Darlington is a capable administrator who has not become a part of the community since she was hired in May of 2005, and she will be leaving after her contract expires in 2008. While outside perspectives are welcome, Pittsfield's next superintendent should either be someone with Berkshire roots or someone who provides assurances that they are determined to put down those roots. Stability starts in the superintendent's office, and the Pittsfield school system desperately needs it.

The problems that afflict Pittsfield's school system — declining infrastructure, low test scores, high dropout rates — are common in urban systems around the state. The greatest failure of education reform since its institution in 1993 has been the continuing stubborn gap between urban schools and suburban schools by most standards of measurement. The problem is magnified for Pittsfield because of its presence in the rural Berkshires, which provides schools that have appeal to students looking to exercise their choice option.

Amid change at the top and stagnation in performance comes the most hotly contested Pittsfield School Committee election in recent memory. Eleven candidates are running for the six positions, and whether this indicates dissatisfaction or just a renewed interest in the schools it is welcome. In the month ahead, we hope the candidates will address a variety of key issues head-on.

Among them:

What does the city need in a superintendent? Does the turmoil at the top offer an opportunity for a reorganization that may be more efficient?

What should be done with the city's crumbling school buildings? Infrastructure problems aside, why are Taconic and Pittsfield High simply dirty? Does the city need two public high schools any longer?

How can parents be persuaded to become more involved in their schools? Educators alone can't make the system work.

The longer school day is coming, and the longer school year will follow. How can Pittsfield's schools get in front of structural changes needed to enable students to compete in a global marketplace?

Praiseworthy innovations are being made in city schools, from an enhanced vocational education program, to the ninth-grade "achievement academy" at PHS to the pilot program for struggling high school students. So while there is cause for concern, there is none for despair. Pittsfield's schools can become better, and the month ahead provides the best opportunity in years to debate how.

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Pittsfield Schools are diminishing!

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

School crossing: Amid struggles, district eyes different direction

By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle StaffBerkshire Eagle

Sunday, September 30, 2007

PITTSFIELD — If the Pittsfield School Department could look in the mirror, it might not like everything it sees.

Test scores that are among the lowest in the state. Dropout rates that are among the highest. School buildings that need repair. Three top executives who have resigned. A community sometimes left out by a lack of communication. Vocational and alternative programming that the school district leaders agree needs improvement.

Problems exist that can't be fixed quickly or easily. But change is on the way for Pittsfield's public schools.

The school department is undergoing a face-lift of sorts, starting at the top and filtering to the campuses. By the time the next school year begins, at least three administrators who were there at the beginning of the 2006-07 school year will be gone. New staff members have been hired to work with at-risk students to try to keep them in school. Aging buildings could undergo repair. Improving communication with parents in the nearly 6,500-student district has become a focus.
"We want our families and our students to be proud of the school system that they attend," said outgoing Superintendent Katherine E. Darlington. "We want Pittsfield to be proud of the public school system, saying, 'Look at how far we've come.' "

New leadership

Any major changes in Pittsfield likely won't come until a new leadership team — both elected and appointed — is in place. Over the past five months, the school district has announced a succession of resignations among its top leaders:

Darlington, who accepted that position in 2005, said in May that this school year will be her last in Pittsfield. She announced her intention to leave after unsuccessfully seeking at least two other superintendent positions in Eastern Massachusetts — a decision she made before receiving an average evaluation from the School Committee this summer. She had been principal of a middle school in Lawrence before taking over in Pittsfield and is expected to move closer to her family.
The district is advertising for a successor for the position, which will pay $110,000 to $115,000 a year.

Deputy Superintendent Henry "Bud" Kaiser announced his resignation in June, declining to give specific reasons, other than to say the district would be "better off" should he leave with one year left on his contract. He now teaches science at Pittsfield High School and has been replaced by Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, that school's former principal.

William J. Cameron Jr. resigned in April as assistant superintendent for personnel and negotiations to become superintendent of the Salem Public Schools. On Wednesday, the School Committee appointed Barbara Malkas, the district's math, science, health and physical education coordinator, to that position.

The change in leadership is not uncommon in school districts, Cameron said, adding that all districts struggle to recruit a work force that is highly competent and qualified.

Change in leadership in Pittsfield specifically is nothing new. The city saw a round of change from late 2003 into 2005: The superintendent resigned, and the district made changes in principals at four elementary schools, Pittsfield High and Hibbard Alternative School.

"Administrative turnover nationwide is a major concern," said Patrick Slattery, a Texas A&M University professor of education and administration who has been a visiting professor in the summer Leadership Academy program at MCLA in North Adams for the past seven years. "School districts look for a multiple array of characteristics for a good administrator. This day and age, they need a leader with higher energy and one who is dynamic. It's a very challenging job," he said, noting that districts across the country compete to find qualified candidates.

Change also could come even above the appointed leadership level. Eleven people are seeking six open seats on the School Committee in the Nov. 6 election. Two years ago, the race drew only six candidates for the six seats; Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto is the seventh member.
"It's refreshing, isn't it? I think it's good every once in a while to have some new people step up to the plate," said Franz Forster, a parent and member of the School Council at Pittsfield High School.

Churchill Cotton, a candidate in the School Committee race, said the community wants changes.
"It's not going to be business as usual anymore," said Cotton, a member of the city's Master Plan advisory committee.

The school grounds

The district's leaders have a list of items to address, but no decision will be more visible or attract more interest than what to do with aging school buildings.

At the forefront of discussion is Pittsfield High School. Built in 1931, Pittsfield had its most recent major renovation in 1975. In a 2006 state assessment, the school was rated "three," meaning the building is "in fair to poor condition, and some building systems may need to be repaired or replaced."

Whether to repair the school or consolidate it with Taconic High School, built in 1969 and in better condition, according to the report, is under discussion because of declining enrollment and an increase in maintenance costs.

Earlier this spring, Dore & Whittier Architects Inc. was chosen to conduct a study on consolidating the two schools.

"Although you don't hear anything about it, (the study) is happening," Darlington said.
"We need to put the issue to bed on the number of high schools in this city," Cotton said. "It's been a drain on people's energy. We need to make a building that's a quality place for kids to go."
In addition to studying whether a consolidation would be economically, structurally and environmentally sound, school and community members hope to learn more about the educational benefits of bringing the two schools together. The study is expected to be finished by January.

Aside from the high schools, the district is looking at the needs of its other buildings. It already has asked the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which manages school-building construction, to consider renovations and repairs for Crosby, Morningside and Conte elementary schools.

With their crumbling brick, dingy walls and windows, and eroding infrastructure, Ruberto called some of the school buildings "an embarrassment to the city of Pittsfield."

"Our buildings have issues," said School Committee candidate Erin Sullivan. "We need to have buildings that kids want to come to and teachers want to teach in."

Retaining students

Getting students to come to school, stay there and graduate is another challenge for the school district.

Last week, several former Pittsfield students who gathered at Project Reconnect — a program designed to help local high school dropouts and recent graduates further their education or prepare for the work force — said there wasn't enough support from the city and schools to keep them in school.

"There needs to be more, definitely," said Pittsfield resident Terrell Davies, 19.

Pittsfield graduated only 67.6 percent of its students who entered school in the fall of 2002, according to 2006 graduation rates released by the state Department of Higher Education. That's well below the state average of 79.9 percent. By contrast, the Lee, Lenox, Berkshire Hills and Mount Greylock districts all graduated more than 87.9 percent of their students.

One of the Pittsfield district's biggest lows was during the 2003-04 school year, when the dropout rate reached 51 percent at Hibbard Alternative School, where 28 of the 55 enrolled high school students left before graduating.

District administrators said that by looking at data, they can identify areas where students are struggling and then develop strategies and programming to support them from pre-kindergarten through high-school graduation.

"We're now pressed to come up with really innovative solutions," Eberwein said last month.
Before his resignation as deputy superintendent, Kaiser said the district was looking at ways to better use data collected, such as creating more effective schedules and curriculum plans to keep students in school.

"We're getting better with data and making decisions based on factual information," said Kathleen A. Amuso, School Committee chairwoman.

Darlington said the school district has begun to implement and will continue to look at programs to better meet student needs to succeed in school both academically and socially.

For one, the district has hired Anne Beauregard as its new alternative-education director. She's charged with making changes at Hibbard and to develop programs that pave the way for Hibbard's students to integrate back into the two main high schools.

Toward the end of 2006-07 school year, the Juvenile Resource Center Truancy Pilot Program was created to help a selected group of high-school students who had fallen behind in their courses. The program offers a more individualized approach to learning to aid students in keeping up with their credits.

In addition, a new ninth-grade "achievement academy" has been established at Pittsfield High. The pilot program included the hiring of four additional teachers so that the school could offer small-group instruction and extra support to kids considered to be "at-risk" for dropping out.

Darlington said that with the creation of the new cabinet position — assistant superintendent for career and technical education — and by hiring newcomer Keith E. Babuszczak for that role, the district will be able to improve the quality of its vocational program.

That's welcome news for some School Committee candidates.

"I want to make sure students in our vocational shops will get the educational background they need," said candidate Peter White. He said that having such options fits the notion that education is not one-size-fits-all.

Candidate William S. Ballen, the superintendent of Mount Greylock School Union 69, said improving Pittsfield's vocational programs may help reduce the amount of students leaving the district.

"We need to offer more non-traditional ways like this and like flex time to help to make these kids succeed," Ballen said.

A strong foundation

Part of preparing students to succeed in high school is giving them a foundation in terms of intervention and discipline in middle school. During the summer, the district middle schools each hired a full-time academic dean to join their administrative team.

Massachusetts Department of Education data shows that the schools have struggled in the past with meeting their target state testing scores and attendance rates.

Christopher Jacoby, principal at Herberg Middle School, hired Brenda Burbank, who was filling in as vice principal last year.

"We're using her to assist with the entire sixth grade in regards to discipline issues," Jacoby said.
He said the school's vice principal will continue to manage discipline in the older grades.

In addition, Burbank is in charge of coordinating student activities, student government and extracurricular activities such as yearbook and newspaper clubs, as well as school assemblies.

"With a building of this size, we've been short-staffed, underserved," Jacoby said. Last school year, Herberg reported a population of 757 students.

Both he and Reid Middle School Principal Beth Schiavno-Narvaez said the new administrators will help them focus on instruction and curriculum development, as well as allow them to get out of their offices and circulate throughout the school more.

Ryan Sabourin, a Reid teacher and the Extended Learning Time coordinator for the district, has been appointed as Reid's academic dean. He and the school's new vice principal, John Vosburgh, will each head one of the school's two teaching teams.

No parent left behind

With the demands of a state system of standards and the federal No Child Left Behind Act in effect, Pittsfield — like any other public-school system — must do all it can to raise its students' levels of achievement and progress.

Last year, the Pittsfield system was one of only nine districts in the state — and the only one in Berkshire County — that failed to meet state targets for overall progress in its schools for four years in a row and was placed into "corrective action" status, according to the state Department of Education.

However, preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress results released by the state earlier this month showed Pittsfield schools meeting all of their performance targets, lagging only with certain subgroups of students.

AYP factors in elements such as student scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, attendance and other demographics.

The school department has posted up-and-down results all decade. Cotton said that to improve and then stabilize the scores, it will be essential to bring parents into the process.

"If we really want to get serious about getting MCAS scores and graduation rates, we're going to have to get more interactive with parents," Cotton said. "You can't expect the schools to do it all. We've got to get everyone involved."

Regardless of the progress, programs or new personnel in the Pittsfield Public Schools, the most important thing the district must do is improve communication.

Slattery, the Texas A&M professor, said it's important for people in a community to be aware of changes going on within a school system, particularly in informing people of the state the district began in, its history and changes, and its goals.

Slattery said issues such as test scores and graduation rates can take years to turn around.
He said that instead of having high expectations for immediate change, school communities and school boards should evaluate their leaders on a yearly basis and look for incremental changes.

"One of the biggest issues right now is that some members of the public, some members of the community, aren't sure what's going on now," Sullivan said.

Fellow candidate George Desnoyers Jr. agreed.

"There's a feeling among parents and staff members that the district is not doing too well in that area," he said.

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Pittsfield Public Schools

Administrators
Superintendent: Katherine E. Darlington

Deputy Superintendent: Howard 'Jake' Eberwein III

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Negotiations: Barbara Malkas

Assistant Superintendent for Business: Sally W. Douglas

Assistant Superintendent for Career and Technical Education: Keith E. Babuszczak

School Committee

Kathleen A. Amuso
Daniel C. Elias
James M. Ruberto (mayor; ex-officio member)
Angel G. Ramirez Jr.
Dorothy van den Honert
Margaret Skowron
S. Daltrey Turner

Elementary schools
Allendale
Capeless
Crosby
Egremont
Morningside
Silvio O. Conte
Stearns
Williams
Middle schools
Herberg
Reid
High schools
Pittsfield
Taconic
Hibbard Alternative

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Recent chronology of Pittsfield Public Schools
Community
The Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, September 30, 2007

May 11, 2005: Katherine E. Darlington is chosen to succeed William D. Travis as superintendent of schools in Pittsfield. She signs a three-year contract for a first-year salary of $110,000.

April 2007: Assistant Superintendent William J. Cameron Jr. announces his resignation to become superintendent of the Salem Public Schools. Darlington interviews for superintendent's position in Malden.

May 8, 2007: Darlington reveals she will not remain on as Pittsfield superintendent after her contract expires in 2008.

June 2007: Deputy Superintendent Henry 'Bud' Kaiser announces his resignation, effective July 31. Linda J. Porter takes Cameron's position of assistant superintendent for personnel on an interim basis (effective July 1). Porter was deputy superintendent of Pittsfield's public schools for four years before retiring after the 2004-2005 school year.

July 31, 2007: Howard 'Jake' Eberwein III is named to replace Kaiser effective Aug. 1. Anne Marie Mutz, chairwoman of the Pittsfield High School guidance department, is named interim principal at the school.

Sept. 26, 2007: School Committee names Barbara Malkas, the district's math, science, health and physical education coordinator, to replace Cameron as assistant superintendent of personnel and negotiations.

June 30, 2008: Darlington's contract will expire, ending her tenure as superintendent.

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School Committee candidates
Community
The Berkshire Eagle

Eleven candidates are seeking six open seats on the Pittsfield School Committee in the Nov. 6 election.

Kathleen A. Amuso
Age: 50.
Has served almost four years on the Pittsfield School Committee, with one term as chairwoman. Has a bachelor's degree in education from Salem State College and a master's in curriculum and instruction from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Taught for 10 years in the Southern Berkshire Regional and Pittsfield school districts; has two sons attending Pittsfield public schools.

William S. Ballen
Age: 58.
Has served 10 years as superintendent of Mount Greylock School Union No. 69, where he also was the special-education director for eight years. Was the school community coordinator/vice principal at Pittsfield's Morningside Elementary School for more than six years; was a special-ed teacher in Pittsfield for four years. Has a bachelor's degree in American history from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's in education from Temple University.

Churchill Cotton
Age: 57.
Is vice chairman of the Westside Initiative Steering Committee, board member of the Berkshire United Way, a member of Success by Six, and a member of Community That Cares Committee. Is a certified high school basketball official. Has a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University. Works for finance department of KB Toys. Is a graduate of the Berkshire Leadership Program. Has two sons who attend Pittsfield schools.

George J. Desnoyers Jr.
Age: 66.
Previously served 13 years on the Pittsfield School Committee, chairman for five years. Taught high school chemistry in Malden for three years. Has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Boston College; earned 21 education credits from the former Boston State College, Brown University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Also once served on a parent-advisory council in Pittsfield.

Daniel C. Elias
Age: 36.
Has served 10 years on the Pittsfield School Committee; has been a coach of youth, high school and college-level sports for 20 years. Is a graduate of Pittsfield High School and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
Age: 63.
Served 10 years as a Pittsfield School Committee member, eight as chairman; has spearheaded several youth-oriented initiatives as sheriff of Berkshire County. Graduate of Pittsfield High School, with a bachelor's degree in sociology from St. Anselm College and a master's in criminal studies from American International College. Taught in Adams schools for three years.

Angel G. Ramirez Jr.
Age: 59.
Has served 20 years on the Pittsfield School Committee. Recently retired as a Spanish teacher for Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton after almost 36 years. Is a member of the Massachusetts Department of Education's MCAS Bias Review Committee and co-chair of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees' Student Assessment Committee. Has a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Has a master's degree in education and administration from Cambridge College. Is a driver-education classroom instructor for Dave's Driving School Inc. in Pittsfield.

Erin Sullivan
Age: 42.
Serves on the Pittsfield School Building Needs Committee; is a member of the Allendale Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization. Has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and communications from Westfield State College; also completed the Berkshire Leadership Program. Is a foster parent. Served as campaign coordinator for Berkshire United Way. Was a Sexual Assault Intervention Network coordinator for Berkshire County Kids' Place. Was an education and training coordinator for Centre County Women's Resource Center in State College, Pa.; was community educator for Family Health Services Inc. in Bellefonte, Pa. Has two children attending Pittsfield schools.

S. Daltrey Turner
Age: 45.
Is finishing her first term on the Pittsfield School Committee. Was a member of the Egremont Elementary School Council and a parent representative to the Superintendent's Advisory Board. Worked more than seven years at Hillcrest Educational Centers. Served on the board of directors for United Cerebral Palsy for three years and volunteered there. Has a bachelor's degree in human services from Cornell University and a master's degree in social work from Boston University.

Dorothy J. van den Honert
Age: 83.
Has served 22 years on the Pittsfield School Committee. Has a bachelor's degree in math, with a minor in physics, from Vassar College. Has state certification as a special-education teacher; taught dyslectic students at Crosby Elementary School in Pittsfield for 11 years; authored book ("Reading From Scratch") on teaching dyslectic students to read.

Peter White
Age: 29
Is a member of the Morningside Neighborhood Advisory Council, which is part of the school's Parent-Teacher Organization. Is a graduate of Taconic High School and has an associate's degree in early childhood education from Berkshire Community College. Has a bachelor's in history, with a minor in political science, from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Works with youth through The Brien Center, offering mental health and substance-abuse services.
Source: Eagle questionnaires, archives

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Alternative learning offers options

Drury High School and BCC are piloting a program geared toward students at risk of dropping out

By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle StaffBerkshire Eagle

Sunday, September 30PITTSFIELD — Drury High School and Berkshire Community College are piloting an alternative education in the county.

Called "Positive Options," the program was designed to support students at risk of dropping out of high school and to help them catch up on the credits they need to graduate.

The dual-enrollment program began Monday, when a small group of North County students between the ages of 17 and 20 arrived on the BCC campus to take classes.

On Friday, seven students wrapped up their first week in their new classroom in Melville Hall. Most are between a junior- and senior-level status.

Asked if the program is a good idea, all of them gave a nod.

"I think it's a good idea. I think it's a very good idea," said Amanda Barton.

She is only seven credits shy of graduating on time, but the regular school day does not offer her enough time to catch up by June.

Positive Options offers her and the other students flexible time and self-paced classes. Through an online program called PLATO, they can complete their work either in the classroom during the school day or at home.

At BCC, the students will take classes to earn credits toward their high school diploma or to prepare them for the General Educational Development tests.

Melanie Rancourt will teach and monitor the progress of all students in the program.

"This is really the next step for us," said Noreen Donnelly, director of special education for North Adams Public Schools.

Positive Options is not a program for students exclusively with special needs or for those with disciplinary problems but rather one for teenagers who have struggled to succeed in a traditional high school setting.

Barton's classmates have a variety of reasons for why they were either approached to enroll in the program or chose to ask about it.

She and another girl, Amanda Adams, said they do not learn comfortably in large settings with lots of people. Barton said that one of her classes maxed out with 32 students, although the typical class size at Drury is between 15 and 20 people.

"If you're a really social person, this is probably not the program for you. Most of us here work pretty independently," Ryan Thompson said.

Adams said it was important for her to graduate.

"If you have a high school diploma, you have a better chance at getting into college and getting a good job," she said.

For students like Jonathan Odragwa of Sudan, Africa, it is a chance to get ahead and to integrate into society.

He started high school at age 18 and had to work against language barriers. He said he did not want to take classes now at age 20. But instead of dropping out, he was told about the new program and decided to try it out.

He is now on a track to complete a GED program. "That's my dream," he said.

Students will have individualized programs based on their current high school credits and MCAS results. Just as with the high school, the curriculum will be aligned with state standards and requirements.

But the teens also will get college "perks" such as full access to BCC's computer labs, library, student lounge, cafeteria and fitness centers.

They also will have the opportunity to work/intern at the college.

Those who can pass a general college entrance exam will become eligible to take BCC courses as well.

"There is absolutely nothing like this in Berkshire County," said North Adams Superintendent James Montepare.

The number of students in this year's program is capped at eight, with a new student scheduled to start Monday. But BCC and Drury officials say that there is room to expand the program, and a waiting list has been established.

Performance data will be collected and student surveys conducted to gauge the program's success.

"This is going to allow kids who didn't feel special at their school to feel special," said BCC President Paul Raverta. "In terms of high school retention and innovation, we need to think about other options. It's not one size fits all."

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City's schools raise scores
Morningside Community is the only one in Pittsfield that has scores drop
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle - Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Friday, October 26, 2007

PITTSFIELD — All but one of Pittsfield's 12 public schools achieved academic targets in their aggregate, or average, MCAS test scores last spring, Deputy Superintendent Howard J. Eberwein III said last night.

Only two city schools failed to reach those MCAS academic targets in all student subgroups, he added. Morningside Community School was the only school that showed negative growth in 2007.

Last night's MCAS presentation occurred at a special School Committee meeting held to give the City Council an opportunity to question school officials and principals. A similar presentation took place at Wednesday night's regularly scheduled School Committee meeting.

Pittsfield's improvement comes one year after five of the city's 10 elementary and middle schools failed to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards on the MCAS English language arts and math tests. Those scores led to a "corrective action" listing for the Pittsfield public schools by the Department of Education. The city's schools must achieve AYP on the MCAS tests two straight years to be removed from that category, Eberwein said.

Only six of the council's 11 members attended last night. Councilor at large Matthew M. Kerwood and Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward had previous commitments, School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso said. Council President Gerald M. Lee, Ward 1 Councilor Lewis C. Markham Jr. and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio also were absent.

"We've worked hard and really excelled at MCAS improvement, and we want you to understand how we've done it," Superintendent of Schools Katherine E. Darlington said.

AYP determinations are based on a combination of student attendance, MCAS participation, performance and improvement over time. Student attendance is not used as a determining factor at the high school level, where it is replaced by the four-year graduation rate.

Eberwein said the graduation benchmark that school districts are required to achieve is 55 percent. Pittsfield and Taconic high schools reached that standard in their aggregate graduation rates, but failed to hit that target in student subgroups.

"One subgroup where we didn't make it is students with disabilities, where you can stay in school until you're 22," Eberwein said. "If you don't graduate in four years you're considered a nongraduate."

Referring to student subgroups in general, Eberwein said it is difficult to compare Pittsfield's MCAS scores with other Berkshire County school districts because many of them don't have enough students in those categories to be counted as a subgroup.

"The subgroups cut off at 40 students," he said. "So they don't test out."

Darlington said the biggest MCAS improvements were at Reid Middle School, where achievement was seen in all areas; at Stearns Elementary School, where the results went beyond expectations; and at Allendale Elementary School. At Pittsfield High School, 10th-graders showed significant improvement on the English language arts test, she said.

Allendale has received statewide recognition from the Department of Education for improving it's fifth-grade math test scores by 40 percentage points, Darlington added.

"We've really started looking at things differently," said Allendale Principal Morgan Williams, who became the school's principal in the fall of 2006. "We did a ton of MCAS analyses."

Stearns' aggregate math score of 89.6 points was the highest among Berkshire County elementary schools, Eberwein said. Williams, Stearns and Allendale had the second, third and fifth highest aggregate ELA scores, respectively, in the county, he added.

Morningside's aggregate math score increased 1/10th of a percentage point to 57.0, but the school's aggregate ELA score dropped 7.6 percent to a 60.8 score.

Morningside Principal Thomas Simon said the school is concentrating on professional development, on high-quality assessments that can be taken on a regular basis and on instructional techniques this year.

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Pittsfield School Committee
Recent staff moves come under scrutiny
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, November 15, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Residents and board members raised concerns over several personnel changes at yesterday's School Committee meeting, begging the question do you fix one problem while creating another?

Multiple residents told the committee that moving Joseph Curtis, current Community Coordinator at Conte Community School, to a position assisting the principal at Morningside Community School would leave Conte with a gaping hole. In 2006, similar concerns were expressed when Conte's Community Coordinator, Morgan Williams, was reassigned as principal at Allendale Elementary.

Parent believes move is wrong

"I fell that moving Mr. Curtis to another school for any reason would be a terrible mistake," said Janet Ward, mother of several Conte students. "This has happened to us twice now, where we lose someone to help someone else. What about Conte? Mr. Curtis has done wonderful things for that school and the young men need a positive role model there. And Mr. Curtis is one."

Committee member Dorothy van den Honert echoed concerns from several officials that removing Curtis to help address Adequate Yearly Progress shortcomings at Morningside was "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Morningside Community School was the only one of the 12 district schools to showed negative growth in 2007. Morningside's aggregate math score increased 1/10th of a percentage point , but the school's aggregate English Language Arts score dropped 7.6 percent.

Though no official title and start date has been set by Superintendent Katherine E. Darlington, a replacement for Curtis will be sought. School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso said committee members plan to express concerns voiced by the community when Darlington returns from vacation. Darlington was not present at yesterday's meeting.

"Joe Curtis was crying as the public spoke," said Amuso. "As you can see, he has had a very positive impact at Conte, but we promised to address the concerns at Morningside. So, we will continue to have discussions about this issue."

Opening for principal at Williams

A second personnel concern stemmed from the acceptance of the personnel report, which named current Williams Elementary School Principal Linda Avalle as the district's new Coordinator of Math and Science.

The change, effective Dec. 3, will require a new principal at Williams.

Mayor James M. Ruberto said the loss of Avalle will leave big shoes to fill.

"I think Williams is really going to miss her," said Ruberto. "But, we're doing everything we can to maintain good quality standards in Pittsfield schools."

In other business, the committee approved an application for a cooperative wrestling team agreement between Pittsfield High School, Taconic High School and Wahconah Regional High School. All three schools failed to recruit enough players for an individual team.

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News Article:
City - Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Pittsfield: Violent incidents reported at schools
Monday, November 19, 2007

A rash of violent incidents were reported in city schools Friday, including an episode in which a teenager was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Details were sketchy, but all of the incidents reportedly occurred on the same day, according to Pittsfield Police Department records.

Two assault-and-battery reports were logged at Pittsfield High School — one in the morning, the other in the afternoon — while a 16-year-old Taconic High School student was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon Friday afternoon.

Also, an alleged assault and "threats" were reported within a 14-minute time span at Reid Middle School Friday morning, police records indicated. Further details were unavailable last night.

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Higher Education: Courses Head Downtown
"New hub for education: BCC and MCLA start classes at the Intermodal Center Pittsfield in January"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts have partnered with the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority to open what will be known as the Intermodal Education Center.

Delegates from the state Legislature and the county's economic sector joined county leaders in higher education yesterday for a press conference held in the new educational space.

The center is situated on the second floor of BRTA's Intermodal Transportation Center, which is located at the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue.

Mayor James M. Ruberto, who turned 61 yesterday, referred to the project not only as a birthday present to him, but as gift to the city.

"This is a dream that's finally coming to reality," he said.

BCC President Paul E. Raverta said that the BRTA has offered up the 3,000-square-foot space for the venture under the agreement that BCC and MCLA will be jointly responsible for paying utilities, providing programming and for maintaining the space and the people who utilize it.

Starts in January

Classes will be offered in the new center for the spring semester which begins in a month. This will include credit courses from both colleges.

Over time, BCC will also offer non-credit workshops, skills assessments, English as a second language course, workforce development and outreach programs there. MCLA will also use the central location as a base for its new Fast-Track program for adult and career-oriented learners.

The center will include a classroom equipped with a multimedia SMART Board, a lab area with 12 computers, a testing center and offices.

In addition to educational programs, the facility will be used to host art exhibits and other events in support of downtown activities.

Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, lauded the effort as a "transit-oriented development," being centrally located and accessible by the county's bus system.

A Berkshire Compact initiative

The effort to open the Intermodal Education Center comes under the larger umbrella of the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education.

The Compact is a county-wide initiative to make 16 years of education desirable and accessible to all Berkshire County residents, and to provide the area with a highly trained and educated workforce.

"Education is currency of the new economy," said Raverta.

"We now have tangible evidence that we can report to the community and say we are doing are job," said Andy Mick, chairman of the Compact and publisher of The Berkshire Eagle.

MCLA President Grant said that the start of the center has been generously supported by local legislative delegation and the city, but added that the colleges can't continue the support on their own. She said she hopes the colleges can lobby for continued support to be in place by fiscal 2009.

But the delegation believes that this effort can be sustainable.

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News Channel 13 - WNYT - 10/5/2007 - By: Jessica Layton

Dispatchers' union calls contract offer unfair

PITTSFIELD, Mass. - The union representing emergency dispatchers in Pittsfield has been working without a contract since July 2004.

Now the union president, Scott Connors, says enough is enough. He says as everything from the price of gas to groceries go up, the city wants his union to ultimately agree to a pay cut.

When somebody calls for help in an emergency, these are the people they talk to.

"Policemen, EMS, citizens -- we have their lives in our hands on a daily basis," Connors said.

It's a big job. But it's one Connors says has been overlooked by Pittsfield Mayor Jim Ruberto.

Right now dispatchers contribute 10 percent to their health insurance. Now the city wants them to chip in 20 percent.

"We don't have a problem with that, but we need a raise that's going to offset that," Connors insisted.

But there has been no deal so far.

Connors says the starting salary for a dispatcher is $12.62 an hour. After four years, the dispatcher is eligible for the top rate of $13.65 an hour. Neither breaks $30,000 a year.

The union president says the median starting salary across Massachusetts is $15.85. He's asking the city to bump their pay to that.

Connors says if his members have to chip in more for health insurance without a raise, then they're losing money.

"People should not be forced to take a pay cut when signing a contract," Connors said.

Ruberto didn't want to say much because the negotiations are ongoing. But he say this is the only collective bargaining unit in the city that hasn't signed a contract.

"To be honest with you, many of the other small unions did sign and did take a loss because they were bullied into it. But as the president of this union I decided that is not the right thing to do," Connors said.

The union president says he will bring this contract to his union for a vote within the next week. If they vote it down, he says it's time to mobilize. That will probably mean picketing in front of City Hall weeks before the mayoral election.

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Police support dispatchers union

Letters

The Berkshire Eagle

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Pittsfield Patrolman's Union is writing to support the Pittsfield Police/Fire Emergency Dispatchers (IUE-CWA 81256) in their contract negotiations with the city of Pittsfield.

We work very closely with these individuals — they operate from the same police department we work out of. Most of them have families and children and depend on their paychecks and benefits.

They handle many different, ongoing emergency situations at the same time, including police and fire calls and emergency services such as AMR and County Ambulance.

The dispatchers we have are top-notch and we would like to keep them. We would like to see the them get a fair and equitable contract offer. After all, our lives depend on it.

JAMES CASEY
MARC MADDALENA

The authors are the president and vice president, respectively, of the Pittsfield Police Patrolman's Union, IBPO-Local 447.

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Dispatchers will picket
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, October 21, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Members of the city's emergency dispatchers' union are planning an informational picketing demonstration in front of City Hall tomorrow morning for what union President Scott Connors is calling an "unfair" contract offer.

The collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Pittsfield Emergency Telecommunications Dispatchers IUE-CWA Local 81256, a nine-member union, expired June 30, 2004.

Connors said the demonstration is due in part to a hike in the health insurance rate.

The contract offer, which the union voted down Thursday, was a 3 percent raise for each of the next two years.

But if accepted, Connors said the union members would lose between $1,000 and $2,000 per year because they have been told that the co-pay for their health insurance would increase from 10 percent to 20 percent.

"We have no problem with this (insurance plan). We just want to get compensated for it," he said.

Contract talks have continuously been in third-party mediation, with the two sides last meeting in July. Connors said another session was held two weeks ago, but members were disappointed that Mayor James M. Ruberto did not attend.

"We have the police, fire, EMS and citizens' lives in hand every time we answer the phone. The union feels that the mayor doesn't care," Connors said.

He said that the current base pay rate for a city dispatcher is $12.62 per hour.

The median hourly wage for police, fire and ambulance dispatchers in Massachusetts is $16.90, according to May 2006 data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Connors said he would like the city to adopt the state's median as the base rate to cover the difference in higher health insurance costs.

"We have one dispatcher who's pregnant. She can't afford to take a pay cut if we sign," he said.

The dispatcher also said that city dispatchers have a 50 percent turnover rate, which he believes is due to lack of a fair contract and pay.

"It's unfortunate," said city Personnel Director David Battistoni with regard to the union voting down the city's offer. Battistoni said Friday that he was aware of the union's vote but had not received formal notification.

"From the city's perspective, an offer was put forward in good faith," he said.

Both he and Ruberto declined to comment on the specifics of the contract negotiations.

Battistoni said that, of the city's 10 bargaining unions, contracts have been settled with all but the dispatchers.

"We'll have to see what happens next," he said.

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NEWS ARTICLE:
Pittsfield dispatchers continue picketing
Berkshire Eagle Staff report
Monday, October 29, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Emergency Telecommunications Dispatchers have announced that they will hold informational picketing today, and every Monday thereafter, in front of Pittsfield City Hall at 70 Allen St., from 8 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.
They will also be conducting informational picketing on Tuesday, Nov. 6, election day, at all polling locations throughout the city.

The picketing is a result of the union recently voting down the current contract offer by the city. The IUE-CWA Local 81256 dispatchers, a nine-member group of full-time workers, said they have been without a contract for three years, and a raise for four years.

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Mayor Ruberto should debate

Letters

The Berkshire Eagle

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Has Mayor Ruberto become so powerful and out of tune with the people that he can decide what debates he will attend and what debates he won't?

As a voter in the city, I want to hear how Mayor Ruberto plans to address the growing crime and gang problem. I want to hear how and when he plans to bring the high paying jobs that he has promised but has yet to deliver.

Mayor Ruberto seems to always talk about his "track record," but if one carefully examines it, the only people he has truly benefited are the rich and elite. Oh, and should I also mention the gang members and drug dealers? It's time to answer at the debates, Mayor Ruberto.

WILLIAM SMITHISON
Pittsfield

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Downtown moving up

The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Not too long ago, Pittsfield's North Street was deserted after dark, a hole in the middle of the city where no one sought to go. Now, it is rapidly becoming the hottest spot in the Berkshires, a testament to what can happen when public investment is met with private dollars.

The Colonial Theatre, Barrington Stage Company and Berkshire Museum all appear to be thriving in the city center, and a raft of restaurants have opened to serve their patrons. Bobby Hudpuckers is just the latest eatery to arrive downtown, joining such stalwarts as Spice, Trattoria Rustica, Brix, On a Roll, The Lantern, Pancho's and others. It is a diverse dining blend, and one that rivals any main street in the Berkshires.

The public and private investment in downtown has a long history. In 1997, then-Mayor Edward M. Reilly pledged support for the renovation of the former J.J. Newberry's building, and several local banks invested in the $9 million project. The building reopened in 2000 as a handsome mix of office, retail and restaurant space.

It was a large step forward, but one that also fell victim to great expectations; Pittsfield would learn over the next 10 years that there is no panacea for a downtown, no single project that can save it.

Even during the city's dark days of deficit and state oversight, the dream of the downtown was kept alive by mayors Gerald S. Doyle Jr., Sara Hathaway and, now, James M. Ruberto.

It was Mayor Jim Ruberto who dared to give $1 million to the Colonial Theatre in 2004, when it was in need of a major funding boost for its $21.6 million renovation. It was a bold move, but it divided the city and fueled criticism, when it was in need of a major funding boost for its $21.6 million renovation. It was a bold move, but it divided the city and fueled criticism that Ruberto was squandering public dollars on a private project, but he was adamant that the Colonial was a major piece of the city's renaissance.

Mr. Ruberto followed that gift with an 11-year tax break for Spice, which transformed a former Goodwill store into a gleaming restaurant, soon to be joined next door by Burger.

Credit for North Street's revival does not only belong to the public sector. The progress so far would never have been possible without investment from small businesses. Nor would it have been possible without the vision and courage of institutions like Berkshire Bank, Legacy Banks and the Greylock Federal Credit Union, which have contributed major financial support.

North Street is still very much a work in progress. While restaurants are doing well, they are also reliant on discretionary income; a hiccup in the economy will mean a dip in their business. The retail sector has been slower to develop, and the downtown has lost some key businesses that found the market too slow, while plans for a multiscreen movie theater have hit turbulence.

There are sure to be other setbacks. Not all of the new businesses will survive, and Pittsfield will be subject to the same market forces that affect the fortunes of the Berkshire's tourist economy. But city leaders and citizens alike would do well to look to the past and remember that progress only comes with persistence.

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Legislature Enacts Nuciforo Bill Expanding Liquor Licenses in Pittsfield

- August, 01 2005

Measure Seen as Integral to Downtown Development

The Massachusetts Legislature has enacted a bill authored by state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. that would expand the number of liquor licenses in Pittsfield.

"Downtown Pittsfield continues to improve. As more residents, visitors, and businesses explore opportunities in the downtown, the city needs the capacity to allow more licenses there," said Nuciforo (D-Pittsfield), specifically crediting Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto's support of the bill as critical to its passage. "Mayor Ruberto has done an excellent job in working with the Berkshire legislative delegation to ensure the economic revitalization of Pittsfield. The Mayor recognizes the critical role that a vibrant downtown will have on the community as a whole."

The legislation, which now goes to the Governor, would allow for additional liquor licenses to several restaurateurs in Pittsfield's downtown corridor. The bill has a range of support from local businesses, restaurants, and elected and appointed officials. Specifically, it grants five additional licenses for the sale of all alcoholic beverages and four additional licenses for the sale of wine and beer.

"The passage of this legislation is another important element in the revitalization of the City of Pittsfield," said Ruberto (D-Pittsfield). "This will make downtown Pittsfield a more attractive destination, which is at the core our economic development effort. I want to congratulate the City Council, and Councilor Louis Costi in particular, for showing such leadership. The passage of this legislation is a testament to how well the Berkshire delegation works with local government to make good things happen."

According to Nuciforo, the Commonwealth is making significant investments in downtown Pittsfield, from the Colonial Theater and streetscape improvements on North Street, to tax credits for the Pittsfield Cinema Center and State Police funding for public safety.

"By granting these additional licenses, the Legislature is providing the City of Pittsfield with additional tools to continue the economic redevelopment of the City's downtown", said state Rep. Christopher Speranzo (D-Pittsfield). "This action allows the City to concentrate its growth in the downtown, while providing the Licensing Board the ability to reserve licenses for specific important projects, such as the cinema center and the Colonial Theatre."

"This bill will clearly help revitalize downtown Pittsfield, and will keep the city moving in a forward direction," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli (D-Lenox), who represents a portion of Pittsfield.

Nuciforo said that he has spoken with members of the Romney Administration, who indicated to him that the Governor recognizes the importance of the legislation to Pittsfield's economic growth.

According to Pittsfield Ward 2 Councilor Louis Costi, "This is an important step toward revitalizing the downtown." Costi led the effort on the City Council to support the legislation.

The Governor has 10 days to act on the legislation.

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Youth quiz mayor, Walto
The two candidates meet in a debate sponsored by the city's organization for young people
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Thursday, October 25, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Though the speaking order at the Pittsfield Youth Commission's mayoral debate was determined in a round of rock-paper-scissors, the forum proved to be a serious match.

As a organization designed to empower and give a collective voice to youth of Pittsfield, the commission chose to sponsor debates and forums for the city's mayoral and School Committee races.

"For any 18-year-old in here in the building or watching this debate on TV, this is important. This is good for them to know," said Youth Commission member Jeric Tyler, a senior at Taconic High School.

The debate between Mayor James M. Ruberto and challenger Donna M. Walto was held yesterday morning the gymnasium of St. Joseph's Central High School. About 100 students, plus a panel of 15 commission members, were in attendance.

"We wanted to host this debate during the day at St. Joe's as to involve as many young adults in local government as possible," said Youth Commission president and Pittsfield High School senior Michael Bloomberg.

In planning the event, commission members developed questions they felt were youth-oriented.

When asked about issues of greatest concern to them, a group of six students came to a quick consensus: drug and alcohol use and abuse, school dropout rates, and having a wide variety of job opportunities in the city.

Both candidates said that if elected mayor, they would support the city's schools and the Youth Commission in creating and sustaining substance free activities for young people.

Panelist Chelsea LeSage, a sophomore at Taconic High School, cited the fact that approximately 30 percent of students entering Pittsfield Public Schools are not graduating.

She asked the candidates, "What do you see as a future for these students? How could you help to change that future?"

Ruberto talked about the school district's latest initiatives, such as adding more teachers and administrators and learning-incentive programs like the Grade 9 Achievement Academy at Pittsfield High School.

He said securing more funding to create "safety nets" for students was imperative.

Walto responded by saying there needs to be more outreach to minority groups, such as young mothers and families where English is a second language, and to keep them connected and involved with school.

"The key is at home," she said.

Jobs and future business development in Pittsfield are also on the minds of teenagers.

Tim Goggins, a senior at St. Joseph's asked the candidates, "How do you plan on enhancing the local job market, the community and the overall quality of life over the next five to 10 years in order to draw us back to Pittsfield after graduation?"

Walto argued that the current administration has not provided enough jobs for young people and for the community as a whole.

Ruberto argued that entities such as the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation and the Berkshire Regional Employment Board have done a good job at developing solutions. He also criticized Walto for not putting forth a solid idea for creating jobs.

When Youth Commission members were asked whether they felt they got enough straight answers from the candidates, they collectively shook their heads "no."

"We need more facts," said Tyisha Turner, a senior at Taconic High School.

Between now and the Nov. 6 elections, students said the candidates need to do more to reach out to the city's youth and should be straightforward with their answers.

The Youth Commission will hold a forum for School Committee candidates on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m., also at St. Joseph's.

But overall, the students said they were pleased at how their first forum turned out.

Said Chelsea LeSage, "I think we definitely made an impact."

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Mayoral Forum Planned in Pittsfield
- October 23, 2007

PITTSFIELD - The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce will host a mayoral forum on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 9 a.m. at Barrington Stage Company at 30 Union St.

Mayor James Ruberto and challenger Donna Walto have been invited to speak to the business community about the issues facing the city. Jenn Smith, staff reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, will serve as moderator at the event. The forum is free and open to the public.

"We are pleased that both candidates have agreed to appear at this special forum," said Michael Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. "We realize that the community is eager to hear each candidate's perspective on the issues facing businesses today, particularly in the areas of recruitment and attraction of enterprises."

To register for the forum, call (413) 499-4000, Ext. 10, e-mail info@berkshirechamber.com or register online at www.berkshirechamber.com

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NOTE: The Berkshire Eagle on Saturday, 10/27/2007, ran 3 pro-Ruberto letters. Do you think they are accurate? Let us see.

LETTER # 1

A vote for Ruberto is a vote for city

The Berkshire Eagle - Letters

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mayor Ruberto's able leadership immediately comes to mind as we observe the revival of downtown, the strengthening of the overall business environment, and the city's inclusion in the Berkshires' cultural offerings.

These successes are intertwined with an even larger picture. Quality of life initiatives in the neighborhoods, such as the expanded code enforcement and several million dollars worth of sidewalk and street improvements, have also been a priority of the Ruberto administration, not to mention the $6 million to improve the city's water quality.

Mayor Ruberto is a leader who understands this big picture. Safe and attractive neighborhoods are not only essential to quality of life, but are also important to attracting new jobs and maintaining a healthy climate for business, education, culture, and recreation. With skilled management from City Hall, everything can move forward at the same time.

Finally, Pittsfield is making progress on many fronts. Re-electing Mayor James Ruberto is a favor we the voters owe ourselves.

JAMES J. SMITH

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Mr. Smith's letter points out that Mayor Jim Ruberto is investing heavily in the City of Pittsfield's infrastructure in order to provide amenities to new businesses who will invest themselves in the community. Mayor Ruberto is complementing his emphasis on capital projects with his investments in making Downtown Pittsfield a tourist mecca. The INACCURACY here is that during the nearly 4 years of The Ruberto Regime's control of the community's public dialogue, PITTSFIELD HAS BECOME THE NUMBER ONE PLACE IN THE COMMONWEALTH of MASSACHUSETTS for job losses, its public schools have dropped into being among the ten worst in the entire state, and the only economic indicator that is rising are Pittsfield's skyrocketing number of WELFARE CASELOADS!

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Letter # 2

Ruberto fulfills promises to city

The Berkshire Eagle - Letters

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Jim Ruberto first came on the scene as a mayoral candidate, he declared that he would be business-friendly. After only two terms as mayor, he has spearheaded a rebirth of economic development. Although I live in Hinsdale, our residents work and shop in Pittsfield and are therefore strengthened by the new businesses that have been added, such as Talent Fusion, Ribco Distributors Workshop, Ice River Springs and Auto Parts International, to name a few.

In addition, General Dynamics, an established business that employs a number of Hinsdale residents in its multi-million dollar integrated support facility on Merrill Road, has over the years affirmed its commitment to Pittsfield. We have also seen how a once-vibrant shopping plaza like the old Bradlee's Shopping Center has sprung back to life. Soon, we will witness how the Pittsfield Plaza on West Housatonic Street will be reborn in the same fashion.

Although Mayor Ruberto's skills and leadership extend well beyond economics and business, it is good to see that in this particular area he has proven himself to be every bit as good as advertised.

RICHARD B. SCIALABBA

Pittsfield

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Mr. Scialabba talks the same propaganda as Mr. Smith. The OUTCOMES of Ruberto's tenure as Mayor of Pittsfield have been anything but productive and profitable for the community. Moreover, any new growth from businesses in Pittsfield has been greatly offset by Mayor Ruberto's over-reliance on raising municipal taxes year after year after fiscal year.

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LETTER # 3

Ruberto takes lead on education

The Berkshire Eagle - Letters

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Over the next several years, the Pittsfield public schools will undergo some leadership changes and address some challenging questions such as high school consolidation, infrastructure needs, the dropout rate, etc. Indeed these questions have attracted more competition for School Committee seats than at any time in recent memory.

What is particularly important is that we keep Jim Ruberto as mayor as these challenges are addressed. This is no time to open the door to amateurs. Education is a complex area, one that integrates many issues. Mayor Ruberto has been an active member of the School Committee, and the stable leadership he offers will continue to be invaluable.

NANCY POTTER

Pittsfield

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Ms. Potter's letter is the most outrageous piece of propaganda out of the three! Pittsfield's public schools are in a state of CRISIS! Mayor Jim Ruberto's "leadership" in public edcuation has been anything but leadership. During Ruberto's nearly 4-year tenure as Pittsfield's Mayor, the Pittsfield Public School system now ranks amongst the 10 worst performing public school systems in the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

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Reward Ruberto for revitalization
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Sunday, October 28, 2007

So many of us remember the glory days of Pittsfield's downtown. Revitalization has been a long time coming. Finally we have a mayor with the kind of leadership and diligence to make it happen. We would be doing ourselves a major disservice if we do not return Mayor Ruberto to the mayor's office with a victory worthy of his efforts and expertise.

It is so wonderful to have world-class theaters, thriving eateries and dozens of businesses cropping up or expanding. Everything is fitting together so nicely. Culture, business and entertainment, all within a few blocks of each other — the vision is taking hold.

MARY PAQUETTE
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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NEWS ARTICLE:

Fear and frustration at Wilson Park
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle
Sunday, October 28, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Residents of the Wilson Park Housing Project have come to expect the speeding cars, the broken beer bottles, the blaring hip-hop music. But, they say, they'll never get used to the sound of gunfire piercing the night air.

"It was, 'pop, pop, pop,' " said a longtime resident of Memorial Drive, a mother of six children between the ages of 2 and 14.

"I turned around to my 14-year-old daughter and said, 'Was that gunshots?' And she said, 'Mom, that was a drive-by.' "

Noisy, uncivil neighbors. The threat of violence. And — after an incident Monday night in which gunfire was sprayed into a passing car but didn't injure anyone — actual violence.

This, according to frustrated residents of the 126-unit, city-run project on Pittsfield's far north end, is an accurate snapshot of life at Wilson Park. And weary tenants, tired of the disruptive, disrespectful environment, say they feel forgotten and neglected by the powers that be.

As city officials trumpet a downtown renaissance — with new restaurants and arts venues elevating Pittsfield's status as a cultural hub — denizens of Wilson Park say they are fed up with drug dealers who ply their trade when the sun goes down.

After nightfall, families gather their children and dead-bolt their doors. Most say they don't venture out after dark.

Monday's shooting has heightened the anxiety of those tenants, who claim that their family-oriented, low-income housing development has worsened over the past few years. And now, they say, it looks like the bad guys are winning.

Crime data for Wilson Park was not immediately available, but Detective Sgt. Marc Strout said last week that the neighborhood is safer than other sections of the city.

"Despite (residents') concerns, Wilson Park is very safe," Strout said.

But residents there are angry — frustrated with city housing officials, the mayor, the Police Department and, of course, the culprit responsible for peeling off several rounds of bullets in a densely populated neighborhood with children.

They also are scared. So scared that most would speak to The Eagle only if their names were not published. In an urban culture where "no snitching" has become the unwritten law of the streets, many residents interviewed by The Eagle say they fear violent retribution by people involved in the drug trade.

Police, meanwhile, have arrested a suspect in the shooting. Wisdom R. Ellerbee III, 25, of Great Barrington pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Friday to two counts of armed assault with intent to murder. The charges allege that he opened fire on a passing car with two occupants.

Ellerbee, who has an extensive criminal record, including drug convictions, was sent to jail on $100,000 cash bail and is due in court for a pretrial hearing on Nov. 21.

The shooting "appears to be drug related," said Detective Strout, head of the Pittsfield Police Department's narcotics unit.

Police officials declined to go into detail about the incident, but Wilson Park residents say the word around the projects is that the shooting was retaliatory, and they fear the possibility of more violence.

"By the time the cops get here, everything is done and over," said a woman named Penny, who asked that her last name not be used.

Penny lives next door to the Wilson Park Community Policing Center on Memorial Drive, about 30 yards from the shooting site.

"If (the police) put someone here from 11 at night to 7 in the morning, that would really help, because that's when all the bad stuff goes on," said the mother of two, who has lived at the housing project for about four years.

In response to the shooting, the Pittsfield Police Department's mobile command station now is parked along the stretch of Memorial Drive where gunfire rang out around 8:30 p.m. Monday.

Community concerns

Despite residents' claims that they rarely see officers patrolling Wilson Park, Pittsfield Police Capt. Michael J. Wynn said units regularly patrol the area. And, he added, the department is always responsive to residents' concerns.

"We meet with community members on a regular basis," Wynn said.

Although many Wilson residents refer to the community policing center as a "police substation," Police Chief Anthony J. Riello said it is not a regularly staffed station and never was.

Rather, he said, it is an empty corner unit that the Pittsfield Housing Authority allows the department to use for community outreach purposes, such as neighborhood crime-watch meetings.

Police officers have used the space over the years, Riello said, but an officer is not posted there on a regular basis.

Dennis Enright, executive director of the Pittsfield Housing Authority, said most problems that arise in Wilson Park tend to stem from residents who allow people who are not on the lease to live with them.

"Our biggest concern is that most of what happens isn't from our tenants, but from their boyfriends or significant others," Enright said. "It's one of the most difficult things we deal with."

Residents who don't follow the tenancy rules could face eviction, he said.

When it comes to crime, the perception that an area is riddled with crime often is not the reality, Strout said.

He credited Riello and Mayor James M. Ruberto for providing "increased resources" to the city's narcotics division to help fight crime. Ruberto could not be reached for comment on Wilson Park.

'They don't care'

Back on Memorial Drive, Penny, a nervous young mother who says she is stuck in the projects until her financial situation improves, describes an average night, particularly when the weather is nice.

"I hear them drinking, smashing bottles. They don't care," she said of the young men who seemingly linger outside a nearby block of apartments on Memorial Drive all day and night. "I care, and I can't afford to live anywhere else."

During an interview with an Eagle reporter, Penny grew increasingly wary of the young men congregating outside the so-called "40 block" area — apartment units ranging from numbers 40 to 49 — and abruptly ended the conversation.

"I don't want to risk being shot myself," Penny said, ordering her kids indoors before the sun set.

On another day, when steady rain soaked the toys and furniture was strewn across the small yards of Memorial Drive, a handful of men in hooded sweatshirts huddled outside a unit in the 40 block.

The mother of six — the woman who lives next to the community policing center and said she hopes to flee the projects as soon as possible — glances toward the men.

"They're looking at us," she said. "I think during the daytime, they don't do too much. It's the nighttime I'm worried about."

Up the hill from Memorial Drive, a group of mothers who live on Mohegan Street are sitting on the stoop of a unit, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

They say they are nervous taking their kids to the bus stop. They are nervous about the shady characters who cut across their tiny lawns. And they are nervous talking to a reporter because tenants of a nearby "problem" unit are peering out their windows, shouting inaudible words in their direction.

Even so, they say the young men who hang out in the vicinity of the 40 block are up to no good.

"We know who they are," said a longtime Mohegan Street resident. "We're not stupid."

On the night of the shooting, James Larimore was visiting his two young sons, who live on Memorial Drive.

"Everyone on that 40 block was scrambling," said Larimore, who sprang to his feet and ran outside to investigate. "They're all drug dealers over there."

Larimore, a hunter, said he heard six shots and knew right away it was gunfire.

"At first, I was scared, but then I became really (angry)," said the college student, who is studying criminal justice and hopes to become a law-enforcement officer.

He told police what he saw, then went back inside to his frightened family and locked the door as nighttime settled in.

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Unsafe in Wilson Park
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, October 30, 2007

To Berkshire residents, drive-by shootings may be perceived as something that happens in Springfield or South Boston, but they happen in Pittsfield too. The recent drive-by shooting at the Wilson Park Housing Project on Memorial Drive in the city's north end drew attention to problems there that are a challenge for the city.

Speeding cars, loud music and broken beer bottles provided evidence that the drug dealers and other low-lifes were taking over the project, and the shooting incident confirmed it. A police official may assert to The Eagle that Wilson Park is "very safe," but it can be assumed he doesn't live there. The parents who bring their children inside when darkness falls and dead-bolt their doors behind them are neither hysterical nor hallucinating.

Pittsfield is coming back, but it will fight a long battle against the criminal forces that infest most urban communities of the Northeast. As the city rebuilds downtown, unsavory elements that thrive in darkness will move on. That same effort has begun in the neighborhoods, and Wilson Park is evidence of the tough challenge ahead.

Tough, but necessary if Pittsfield is to fulfill its potential. That effort will cost money. It will require law enforcement to take the concerns of residents sincerely. It will require landlords to enforce tenancy rules. And it will require residents to cooperate with law enforcement. "No-snitch" rules must be abandoned if neighborhoods are to be reclaimed.

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Ruberto delivers for Pittsfield
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, October 29, 2007

Mayor James Ruberto has delivered the goods when it comes to Pittsfield's downtown. Not only have businesses and cultural venues sprouted up from South Street to Maplewood Avenue and beyond, but also the first $4 million for the streetscape project to make downtown pedestrian-friendly have been secured.

And although delayed, is there any doubt that this mayor will deliver on what might be the centerpiece — the new cinema center? We look forward to the city breaking ground soon, because we know that this mayor delivers the goods.

ARLENE HERRICK
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Revival earns votes for mayor
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The creation of the arts overlay district, a priority of Mayor Ruberto's administration, has resulted in the establishment of the Colonial Theatre and the relocation to Pittsfield of the Barrington Stage, among other additions. Pittsfield is now a full-fledged player in the Berkshire's cultural offerings.

As the mayor predicted, this action has inspired private investments in restaurants, condos, etc. And also as the mayor predicted, the increased activity and attention is making for a cleaner and safer downtown.

When such good things happen, it is seldom by chance or coincidence. Leaders have to know what they are doing and they need to lead. Fortunately, this is happening. To keep it going, we need to do ourselves a favor. Re-elect Mayor James Ruberto on Nov. 6!

JIM JOHNSON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Re: The Mayors and local elites in the Pittsfield/North Adams area are all SELFISH and SICK BASTARDS!

10/31/2007

Re: "Ruberto and Walto Face Off in Debate" (iBerkshires.com, By Jen Thomas, October 30, 2007 ): Mayor Jim Ruberto predictably paints a rosy picture of his administration to cover up the purposeful use of perverse incentives that have a negative or deleterious impact on society but also with benefits for his wealthy constituency, namely keeping taxes artificially lower on places like Crofut Street and throwing money at special interests that do NOT help the common residents.

Jimmy Ruberto states the following:

#1 - A third term would mean continuing the initiatives he's already put in place and working to produce "more results."
"We're looking at new businesses while also working hard to retain what we have," said Ruberto.

NOTE: Pittsfield, Massachusetts ranked # 1 in job LOSSES in 2006. Ruberto took office in early-2004. That is 3 years of Jimmy Ruberto being Mayor with the WORST POSSIBLE PUBLIC RECORD ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT! (see news articles below).

#2 - Ruberto outlined his administration's commitment to placing more teachers in classrooms as an indicator of his dedication to education. While much had been done in the schools, he said, there are still certain elements where "critical improvement is still needed," including a still-escalating high school dropout rate and less-than-outstanding Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test scores.

NOTE: Pittsfield graduate rates low; Ranked in bottom 13% in state (Friday, February 02, 2007): Pittsfield graduated only 67.6 percent of its students who entered high school in 2002, a number that climbed to 72.9 percent among students who spent all four years at Pittsfield high schools.

#3 - Ruberto said he plans to follow the city's values of creativity, innovation, compassion, tolerance and entrepreneurship, if re-elected. "We've layed out a vision and we've begun to implement that vision and we will continue to do so. There is history and evidence that this administration has moved forward effectively and efficiently," Ruberto said. "I've seen all the difference."

NOTE: The LEGACY of the Ruberto Administration, like North Adams John Barrett III, and past Pittsfield Mayors before him: Ed Reilly, Gerry Doyle, etc., is a LEGACY of POVERTY and PERVERSE INCENTIVES. PLEASE review all of the TEEN PREGNANCY news articles I have compiled, which may be found below.

-Jonathan A. Melle
Halloween, 2007

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A REVIEW OF THE PROLIFERATION TEEN PREGNANCIES IN MY NATIVE HOMETOWN OF PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS
-By Jonathan Alan Melle

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TEEN PREGNANCY RATES IN PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS, DOUBLE THE STATEWIDE AVERAGE!...BY DESIGN...as PERVERSE INCENTIVES RULE PITTSFIELD's GOVERNMENT!...The Mayor and communitarian Elites in the Pittsfield/North Adams area are all SELFISH and SICK BASTARDS!
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Saturday, 3 February, 2007

Re: "Teen pregnancy up, youth programs down" (Letter to the Editor of The Berkshire Eagle, by Holly Brouker, Saturday, February 03, 2007): Teen pregnancies are up in Pittsfield by design. Why? As Rinaldo Del Gallo III pointed out in a previous letter to the Editor of The Berkshire Eagle earlier this week, the answer lies in perverse economic incentives!
A poor, post-industrial city government such as Pittsfield, Massachusetts' biggest economic resource is not business, but government. Why is this so and how does it even begin to make sense? Both from many decades of personal experience of growing up in Pittsfield and the surrounding area, and through my studies and personal interests in political science and public administration, the answers lie in the economic principles of both risk and its close second liabilities.
The political system works and is administered as follows: The Federal Government appropriates billions of social service and public educational dollars every fiscal year to the state governments to administer. With these public dollars, the state governments have to meet certain regulatory guidelines and compliance standards or else they will be penalized and funds will be withheld. To see a state not meet federal regulatory standards, just look at what happened to federal funding with the "Big Dig" in Boston. The state governments then receive these federal dollars for social service and public educational dollars and administer them to the school districts, meaning to the city and town governments.
Let us stop here for a brief moment. The state government uses perverse economic incentives instead of rational economic incentives by taking the federal dollars and meeting the minimal federal regulatory standards for social service and public education. Why do the state's do this? So that the states can take the rest of the federal money and complement it to their own state fiscal year budget. Now the state governments can bridge their own budget gaps, vote each other legislative pay raises, allow a new governor to try to buy off the Legislature with another pay raise (see Deval-uator Patrick), and the like.
Going forward. The cities and towns then receive the federal dollars through the state administered programs for their social services and public educational programs. Now, the municipal government uses perverse economic incentives instead of rational economic incentives by taking the state administered federal dollars and only meets the minimal state regulatory standards for social service and public education. Why to the city and town governments do this? So that the municipality can take the rest of the state administered federal money and complement it to their own local fiscal year budget. Now the municipal governments can artificially lower property taxes (to the extent possible), subsidize business tax breaks, and have fancy new theaters and ball parks.
So, back to the economic principles of both risk and its close second liabilities. Now, to a local government, business open and close, move out of town, lay off workers, and the like. What does this all mean to a Mayor? The answer is long-term risks that if lose money through property taxes, jobs, and the like, mean increase liabilities (financial obligations) for the municipal government the Mayor is administering -- meaning Mayor McCheese will be faced with big property tax hikes to fill the annual fiscal year municipal budget gap, which will lead to the end of his time in political office.
So what does Mayor McCheese invest in? You got it, the government! Why? Because it is a sure thing with low risks and low liabilities. Every year, good old Uncle Sam is going to spend billions of social service and public education federal dollars, and every year the state government is going to take that money to administer to the cities and towns.
So what happens next for a city like Pittsfield? In order to for the municipality to receive the government dollars, they need people to fill the slots for social service and public educational public dollars. How does Pittsfield recruit these people to "North Street" or "Social Service Alley"? You got it! By allowing teenage girls and young woman to have unprotected sexual intercourse and become pregnant and receive all of the social service entitlement welfare benefits. Now, you have a mother receiving benefits, a child that will be in need for many decades to come, and going to the local public schools to boot, and "deadbeat dad" tied down to the locality by child support -- one of two payments one can never write off to bankruptcy (the other debt being student loans).
In the end, Pittsfield now receives tens of millions of dollars in federally appropriated and state administered public dollars every fiscal year. Wow, what a profit! In conclusion, Teen Pregnancies are up in Pittsfield by design because of PERVERSE ECONOMIC INCENTIVES! The letter, pasted below, illustrates everything I just wrote. Read on...

-Jonathan A. Melle

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Teen births - BERKSHIRE County
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Pittsfield's teen birth rate nearly doubles the statewide figure. The following numbers reflect the amount of teen pregnancies for every thousand girls in 2004:
Massachusetts 22
Lawrence 79
Fitchburg 46
Pittsfield 43
Boston 26
Source: Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy

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NEWS ARTICLE:
Teen pregnancy up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, January 25, 2007
PITTSFIELD — The teen pregnancy rate rose in Pittsfield in 2005, even as the state and national numbers declined.
The state Department of Public Health conducts an annual survey of all births in Massachusetts. Its report for 2005, released on Tuesday, shows that Pittsfield continues to buck the state and national trend of slowing teen pregnancies.
There were 67 babies born to mothers aged 15 to 19 in Pittsfield in 2005. That equates to a rate of 52.7 babies for every 1,000 girls in that age group, the seventh-highest in the state.
That is an increase of nearly 14 percent over 2004, when there were 59 teen births, or 46.4 per 1,000 in Pittsfield.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts has watched its teen pregnancy rate decline steadily for the past 15 years: In 2005, there were 21.7 teen mothers per 1,000 teen girls, versus roughly 35 in 1990.
'Growing Up Fast'
The Pittsfield numbers perpetuate a worrisome trend in the city, which has been under scrutiny since 2003, when a book, "Growing Up Fast," and a companion documentary movie focused attention on teen pregnancy in the city.
The book and movie concentrated on six teen mothers, telling their stories as they struggled with their young families.
The new numbers show that, while Pittsfield's rate may fluctuate from one year to the next, it has stayed stubbornly high.
And over the five-year period from 2000 to 2005, teen pregnancies increased by almost 24 percent.
The Pittsfield trend sticks out in a state that has a teen birth rate that is 46 percent below the national average of 40.4 births per 1,000 teens.
In fact, Massachusetts is seeing the average age of its mothers increase, with the majority waiting until they are between the ages of 30 and 34 to have children, according to the Department of Public Health report.
Nationally, the majority of women having children fall into the 25 to 29 age range.
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» Teen pregnancy
Teen births in Pittsfield per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:
2000 — 42.6
2001 — 36
2002 — 44.8
2003 — 52.9
2004 — 46.4*
2005 — 52.7
*The DPH revised this number this year to take into account a change in Pittsfield's estimated population. The number published in 2006 was 43.4.
Teen births in Massachusetts per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:
2000 — 25.8
2001 — 24.3
2002 — 22.6
2003 — 22.6
2004 — 22.2
2005 — 21.7
Teen births in the United States per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:
2000 — 48.5
2001 — 45.8
2002 — 42.9
2003 — 41.7
2004 — 41.2
2005 — 40.4
Source: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health

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Persistent problem of teen pregnancy
Editorial
The Berkshire Eagle
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

While the rest of the state is celebrating modest progress in the effort to combat teen pregnancy, the problem only grows worse in Pittsfield. This is as puzzling as it is disappointing. Pittsfield is not unique in the socioeconomic programs that lead to a high teen pregnancy rate. There is no giving up, but if current strategies aren't working, what can be done?
According to the state Department of Public Health, the teen pregnancy rate declined 2.25 percent to 21.7 per 1,000 in 2005, while the rate skyrocketed 13.6 percent to 46.4 per 1,000 in Pittsfield. The city's prevention programs and agencies were kept well-funded through the advocacy of former state Representative Peter Larkin, and there is no reason to believe agency personnel are not capable and hard working. If, however, teens don't see having babies as a problem, or if they even see it as a benefit, no amount of money or hard work will make a difference.
Mr. Larkin suggests that part of the problem is drug dealers taking up housekeeping with local girls and winning state-financed housing when a baby comes along, providing the dealers with a base of operations. If this is the case, it is difficult to cut funding for the drug dealer without putting the teen and her child out on the street. It would, however, be just one more reason for law enforcement agencies to clean the city and county of drug-dealing parasites.
In exploring the lives of several Pittsfield teen mothers, author and film-maker Joanna Lipper ("Growing Up Fast") found that the teens in general believed that having babies would boost their self-esteem and give meaning to otherwise empty lives. In reality, becoming a teen mom usually means an end to higher education and a lifetime of poverty. The DPH results suggest that nothing has changed in Pittsfield since Ms. Lipper's revealing book was published in the fall of 2003, and an unrealistic attitude toward having babies by teens will frustrate well-intentioned, well-funded prevention efforts.
The coalition of community groups and social service agencies that sponsored the recently released Berkshire Youth Development Project survey are convinced many youth problems, from pregnancy to alcohol to drugs, can be attributed in part to a lost connection with community, which should provide a sense of right and wrong, as well as outlets like after school activities that build esteem and keep young people occupied. That connection must be restored, and teens, boys and girls, must be more responsible. It isn't enough to throw money at the problem of teen pregnancy.

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Teen pregnancy up, youth programs down
Letters
Saturday, February 03, 2007
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
Let's review last week's news:
Teen pregnancy rate is up in Pittsfield, the police are teaching health in Lanesborough schools (subject to renewal from state budget), and some school districts claim they cannot afford to support a high school bowling team.
Would you say students do not need health classes or more physical education time? Should they be allowed to experiment in unhealthy behaviors such as sex, alcohol, and drug use? We already know childhood obesity is a rising epidemic which leads to more serious disease. One-third if not more of the children in the United States are considered obese, ticking time bombs. Isn't it just easier to follow the crowd rather than be different, especially when schools and towns don't offer alternative healthy guidance?
You mean to tell me a bunch of motivated kids can't have a bowling team at their high school because there isn't enough money for the important sports teams to exist?
I ask you: What is wrong with this picture? Why isn't the government, national, state and local, looking at our school programs, allotting teachers and coaches who love what they do the money they need to keep our kids bowling, healthy, and not pregnant!
Whatever the activity, families, schools and governments need to look at the big picture and promote a healthier living for life. Kudos to those who continue to try.
HOLLY BROUKER
Pittsfield, Jan. 29, 2007
The writer is a former health/physical education teacher who lost her job because of budget cuts in 2002.
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News Article:
The Washington Post Online
Teen Pregnancy, Birth Rates Plummet Across D.C. Region
By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 29, 2007; Page A01
~In Part~
In a country with the worst rates in the industrialized world, officials have focused on teen pregnancies and births because of their distressing, lifelong ramifications.
Adolescent mothers frequently compromise not only their health but also their future, dropping out of school and struggling financially. Their babies are at greater risk for a host of problems, including low birth weight and abuse, neglect and poor academic performance.
"Teen childbearing affects young people at both ends of childhood," the Annie E. Casey Foundation has noted.

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One in four Berkshire moms not getting prenatal care
By Anthony Fyden - February, 23 2006
In stark contrast to other Massachusetts communities, fewer than 75 percent of Berkshire mothers received adequate prenatal care in 2004, according to a new statewide report. That means that at least one in every four pregnant women failed to get the care needed to safely deliver healthy babies.
From a statewide perspective, the Massachusetts Births 2004 report, released on Wednesday, held some good news, including that the state's teen birth rate reached an all-time low. In fact, the teen birth rate of 22.2 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 was 46 percent lower than the national rate. (The teen birth rate for Berkshire County was 25.8 percent).
Also, smoking rates during pregnancy reached an all time low statewide, 7.4 percent, 28 percent below the national rate. And in 2004, Massachusetts had the second lowest Infant Mortality Rate in its history: 4.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
But the report raised some startling red flags for Berkshire County, particularly in the area of prenatal care. The report noted "less than 75 percent of mothers received adequate prenatal care in the Community Health Network of Berkshire County.”
In contrast, over 90 percent of mothers living within the Beverly/Gloucester health network received adequate prenatal care.
In Pittsfield, only 69.4 percent of mothers received adequate prenatal care, compared to over 90 percent of mothers living in Brookline and Arlington.
Pittsfield's Berkshire Medical Center (64.6 percent) was among facilities with the lowest reported rate of adequacy of prenatal care among mothers delivering in 2004. Other hospitals in this category were Boston Medical Center (53.9 percent), Tobey Hospital (62.8 percent), Lowell General Hospital (64.5 percent).
The hospitals with the highest rates of prenatal care included Beverly Hospital (93.3 percent), Saint Vincent Hospital (94.8 percent), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (95.1 percent), and Brigham and Women's Hospital (98.1 percent).
According to a summary issued to the press, other key findings of the report include:
"In 2004, there was a 2 percent decrease in the number of births statewide. The number of births has decreased by 15 percent from 92,461 births in 1990 to 78,460 in 2004.
"The percentage of low birth weight infants (LBW) (less than 2,500 grams or 5.5 pounds) was 7.8 percent, the highest rate ever, although it is 4 percent below the national rate. Two important factors that account for this increase are the ages of mothers giving birth and the increase in multiple births.
"Older women are more likely to deliver LBW infants. The average age of a woman giving birth in Massachusetts is increasing. In 1980, about 1 in 4 births was to a woman aged 30 or older. In 2004, 56 percent of women giving birth were 30 years or older.
"Multiple births accounted for more than one half of the increase of low birth weight since 1990. The percentage of multiple births remained high in 2004. In 2004, 1 out of 21 births was a multiple birth. In 1990 1 out of 38 births was a multiple birth.
"Teen birth rates were highest in Lawrence (79.4 per 1,000 women ages 15- 19), Holyoke (76.0) and Springfield (70.9).
"Disparities in birth outcomes continue. The Black non-Hispanic IMR is 3 times that of white non-Hispanics (11.4 verses 3.8).
"The report in its entirety is available at www.mass.gov/dph/pubstats.htm . The data is also available through MassCHIP at www.masschip.state.ma.us ."

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NEWS ARTICLE:
THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE-
Pittsfield graduate rates low
Ranked in bottom 13% in state
By Matt Murphy, Eagle Boston Bureau
Friday, February 02, 2007
Pittsfield graduated only 67.6 percent of its students who entered high school in 2002, a number that climbed to 72.9 percent among students who spent all four years at Pittsfield high schools.

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Bump looks to address job losses in Berkshires
2/19/2007
By: Karen Honikel
Governor Deval Patrick's new Executive Director of Workforce Development isn't wasting any time getting down to business.
Former State Representative Suzanne Bump is working to introduce herself to the local business communities and let them know she will make sure the Berkshires are not forgotten on Beacon Hill. She says a major concern right now is addressing the loss of jobs in the Berkshires.
Currently the Berkshires have the highest rate of job loss in Massachusetts. Bump says this can be changed with the right policies in place. She says she will be meeting with the Governor once a week to work on bringing skilled workers and higher paying jobs into the area.
Bump says a key part to local job growth and development will be finding a way to keep the younger workers in the Berkshires.
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NEWS ARTICLE:
Mayor refuses to sign petition
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
PITTSFIELD — A former city councilor's attempt to get Mayor James M. Ruberto to sign a citizens' petition asking General Electric Co. to stop dumping PCB-contaminated waste at three city sites resulted in an angry confrontation between the two men at last night's City Council meeting.
During the public comment period, former City Councilor William D. Barry of 24 Kittredge Road asked the entire council and the mayor to add their names to a petition signed by 838 city residents asking that GE stop dumping contaminated material at Hill 78, Hill 71 and in an area bordered by Merrill Road and New York Avenue. Barry represented Ward 1 before deciding not to seek re-election in 2001.
In response to Barry's remarks, Council President Gerald M. Lee said that the 11-member council and Ruberto were not required to honor Barry's intentions at a council meeting. Ruberto then rose from his seat and addressed Barry personally.
"Unfortunately, I'm not going to sign his petition," Ruberto said. "I can't sign that petition. I continue to understand from all parties involved that the data suggests that GE is indeed in compliance with the agreement signed when Mr. Barry was a councilor."
Ruberto was referring to the consent decree that requires GE to clean up PCB contamination in Pittsfield.
As a few people in the audience began yelling at the mayor, Ruberto said that the city would continue to investigate the issue and would not settle it based on emotion.
"The people have spoken," Barry said. "The mayor has decided to side with GE."
"I think that it's highly improper to say that I side with GE," Ruberto said. He said the city would continue to use the resources of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Public Health in conjunction with the city's independent legal counsel to monitor the situation.
"What I do resent, however, is that personal attack that Mr. Barry has made on me," Ruberto said, his voice rising, "particularly since, when he had the opportunity to establish consent agreements, when he was in the seats that you are to set policy and to establish course, he executed the agreement which I am now defending."
"I don't want to get into a debate with the mayor," Barry responded. "It's real simple. The kids in the community at Allendale are at stake. We've studied it and studied it for six years, and not a darn thing has been done.
"If the mayor doesn't want to act on it, we'll take it to a higher authority."
Before confronting Ruberto, Barry said he planned to take the petition to the School Committee and to U.S. Rep. John W. Olver's office.
As Barry left the podium set up in front of the council, sporadic clapping broke out in the audience.
One woman yelled, "Our children are so important."
"Please, please. That's not going to do any good," Lee said.
"I don't care," the woman said.
"Well, that's apparent," Lee responded.
Before Barry spoke, Denise Yon of 2 South Carolina Ave. and Tanya Hunt of 15 Allengate Ave. also asked the council to take action on PCB pollution, specifically at Hill 78, which is situated behind the athletic fields in back of Allendale Elementary School.
Hunt said the representatives of various agencies have told the parents of the Allendale pupils that the levels of PCBs in the school are under the required standards, but that the levels of PCBs under the school are not.
"Please support stopping the dumping behind the school," Yon said.

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Surprise! City praised
Pittsfield honored by Yankee magazine
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, November 01, 2007

PITTSFIELD — A dandy bit of good press is shining on Pittsfield.

Yankee Magazine's November issue has anointed Pittsfield "The Most Surprising City in New England," offering a five-page spread of words and pictures celebrating the city's emerging charms, eats, arts, cultural hot spots and secret places.

Never mind that since their writer-visitors hung out here, the Digital Blend coffee shop (mentioned as "where to eat") has closed, or that Bellissimo Dolce cafe (also listed as "where to eat") is now called Dottie's.

Yankee writers Patricia Harris and David Lyon note highlights of the city's gradual renaissance: galleries, the Berkshire Museum, the Colonial Theatre and Barrington Stage Company; shopping spots Wild Sage, Twin Hearts Handworks and USBluesware, along with some lodging spots and the Pittsfield State Forest.

Brix Wine Bar, Sage, Pittsfield BrewWorks and On a Roll Cafe earned mentions as well, but confessions of the writers are heartening.

"We've been as guilty as anyone of barely slowing down as we've driven through Pittsfield on our way from Tanglewood in Lenox to Mass MoCA in North Adams," write Patricia Harris and David Lyon, whose similar stories have appeared in The Boston Globe and Asbury (N.J.) Park Press.

"Pittsfield seemed to be merely a crossroads with shuttered retail shops and all the untidy business of Berkshire County government. ... These days, Pittsfield surprises everyone who stops by. While the rest of us have been whizzing past, the city has been quietly but busily reinventing itself," they wrote.

It's just the sort of kudos coveted by those tending Pittsfield's proverbial blossoms.

After all, it wasn't long ago — 2005, to be precise — that the Times of London declared Pittsfield "a decaying backwater on the western edge of the state."

Since then, several publications have noticed the urban renewal under way, including The New York Times and Country Home Magazine, among others.

Linda Mitchell, owner of USBluesware, a new and used clothing shop with a presence on both eBay and North Street, has been thrilled by the response to Yankee's story.

"We've gotten phone calls, customers coming in, a lot of attention," she said. "The day this (article) came out, I got a phone call from someone who lives in Tennessee — she used to live here but still gets Yankee Magazine — and she was asking about Gucci bags."

"Every time Pittsfield gets mentioned in print, it keeps reinforcing the fabulous things going on here," she said. "It continues to be great."

The story was welcomed by Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, for whom the blend of established businesses, entrepreneurial spirit, culture and the arts are a civic platform.

"What I think they captured is the focus of the values I hold dear," Ruberto said yesterday. "Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. It captures the energy of people moving into this community."

Michael Supranowicz, executive director of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said groundwork for the city's improvements was set some years ago by area business leaders who began investing in downtown Pittsfield to bring workers into the city.

"We put a big investment in this building (the Central Block), Legacy Banks came behind us, and we then had people working downtown," he said. "Then the restaurants followed to feed people, and then the new transportation center. Now everything has blossomed."

To reach Ellen G. Lahr: elahr@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6240.

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Ruberto for mayor
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Sunday, November 04, 2007

The strides that Pittsfield has made during the administration of Mayor James Ruberto are most apparent downtown. While less tangible, the strides are also apparent in the attitude of the many residents who believe, as they never thought they would, that the city is not just poised on the brink of a renaissance but that the renaissance has begun. The city has a long way to go, as the mayor would readily acknowledge, to complete that comeback. We believe that Mayor Ruberto will continue to lead the city's comeback in the next two years.

Pittsfield, like most northeastern cities, is seeking businesses that provide good-paying jobs, and mayoral challenger Donna Walto has been critical of the performance of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority in the campaign. PEDA only took control of the initial 27 acres constituting the William Stanley Business Park from General Electric just two years ago, and the larger reality is that business and industry today are looking more closely at China and India, where wages are cheap and benefits non-existent, than Pittsfield or any other northeastern community.

Mayors have no influence over the global marketplace, but they can make their cities attractive to businesses that may want to settle in a community like Pittsfield. Mayor Ruberto, with the assistance of an enlightened City Council, has given Pittsfield a huge advantage over rivals by rebuilding downtown, which is the face a city shows to visitors.

The revived Colonial Theatre, the arrival of Barrington Stage, the appearance of top quality restaurants drawn by the availability of more liquor licenses, the opening of niche businesses, have provided a shot of adrenaline to the city's heart. Buildings have been renovated, apartments spruced up, condominiums sold, thanks to entrepreneurs who felt welcomed by a City Hall that improved sidewalks and offered tax credits while selling a hopeful new vision for the city. When new businesses come to Pittsfield, and as new businesses grow and expand, the revived downtown and the city's revived spirit will be largely responsible.

Good schools are a must for the kinds of businesses that care about their employees and their families, and Pittsfield faces the severe challenges common to urban school systems. Mayor Ruberto, who has lived up to his promise to end teacher layoffs, has taken a hands-on approach to education that will pay dividends, and he has been an advocate of Berkshire Community College, whose success is of great importance to the local business community.

The complicated Beacon Cinemas project is of great importance to downtown, and Mr. Ruberto is needed to see it through to completion. Improving the city's struggling neighborhoods, and the related issue of providing more affordable housing, are important components of Pittsfield's revival we trust the mayor to continue to address in the coming term.

Mayor Ruberto is no diplomat and his straightforward approach can anger people. To his credit, however, the mayor has been angering the right people — the naysayers and chronic complainers who reveled in and contributed to Pittsfield's decline. He has proven them wrong, and we are confident he will continue to do so. The Eagle endorses James Ruberto for a third term as mayor.

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Donna Walto will help working people
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Thursday, November 01, 2007

I am writing in support of Donna Walto for mayor of Pittsfield. In the past days and weeks, people have written in support of the incumbent mayor, saying that he had kept the promises he made to the people of this city. If he promised to make the rich people richer and the poor and middle class people poorer, then he has kept his promises.

In my opinion, Donna Walto will concentrate more on helping working people better their situation than the present occupant of the office she is seeking, and I urge all people to consider giving her their vote.

JIM GLEASON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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OP-ED COLUMN in The Berkshire Eagle:
Ruberto is Pittsfield's champion
By Clarence Fanto

Sunday, November 04, 2007

PITTSFIELD

It was an otherworldly moment during lunch at The Lantern the other day with an old friend and former Eagle colleague. We were discussing the bad old days of city government, with dueling mayors and City Councils while North Street, beset by a crime wave and all-too-many vacant storefronts, slid toward oblivion. Beyond that, too many people were in the throes of despair, gripped by low morale as the city hemorrhaged jobs and population losses approached 1,000 a year.

Just at that moment, as we were expressing amazement over Pittsfield's recent reinvention and my lunchtime companion was proclaiming James M. Ruberto as the best mayor in living memory, he strode past our table with a hearty greeting. We burst out laughing and explained why. He was not displeased.

If Rip van Winkle were to return after a four-year nap, he would hardly recognize the main drag and the rest of the downtown area. Yankee magazine was impressed; the current issue proclaims Pittsfield as "the most surprising city" in the Northeast and cite The Lantern as a classic American bar and grill.

Who would have predicted a genuine restaurant row with diverse choices, including Burger, the just-opened adjunct to Spice, two restored playhouses offering live entertainment for nearly all tastes, hip, funky stores, and tired old apartment buildings rejuvenated as market-value condos.

The election is two days off and Ruberto, a tireless cheerleader for Pittsfield but one whose promises have been followed by tangible results, is being re-challenged by Donna Walto, a city native and business entrepreneur who presumes to speak on behalf of the city's poor and downtrodden. She has been attempting to run a populist campaign, going door-to-door in some neighborhoods. Walto contends that she will do a better job as mayor and that she will represent "all the people." With all due respect, it's hard to see the credentials, experience or expertise behind that claim.

At a debate held at Barrington Stage on Tuesday morning, Walto responded to a wide range of questions with generalities and ambiguities. Ruberto hit one home run after another merely by reminding us of what has been accomplished on his watch.

No mayor is perfect, and this one sometimes glosses over setbacks, such as the inability to recruit viable tenants for the William Stanley Business Park, demonstrated by Petricca Industries' about-face on its plans to expand on a site there. And Workshop Live, backed by tax incentives tied to hiring goals, has laid off staff; apparently, the concept of teaching music online instead of in-person leaves something to be desired. But these few negatives are far outweighed by a lengthy list of accomplishments.

Ruberto, a native who connects and communicates with the folks headline writers like to call "locals," also is well-connected with the business community, state government, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, and other key figures and agencies in a position to help Pittsfield move toward the mayor's mantralike goal — "best small city in the Northeast." He acknowledges the need to focus public-safety efforts on certain neighborhoods where the drug trade and its related crime have moved; drive-by shootings are not the kind of surprise Yankee magazine is writing about. He also is committed to reversing the city's public education setbacks and is justifiably proud that the annual wave of teacher layoffs is a thing of the past.

Walto has tried to stoke the embers of class warfare by positioning herself as the working-class champion pitted against a mayor she alleges to be elitist and hooked into the aristocracy.

"I will treat everybody fairly, not just the wealthy," Walto asserted at last Tuesday's debate.

"Everybody in this community counts. I will take care of all the people in Pittsfield, just as a mother does with all her children." Ah ha! The citizens are children who need mothering! She also declared that she would restore "open and honest government," and that she would "promote democracy in my office." A not-very-veiled and downright irresponsible implication that dishonesty and secrecy now prevail.

This newspaper's editorial page is the place for endorsements. Let's leave it at this: Voter participation is essential, and we hope an apparently lopsided campaign won't depress turnout at the polls on Tuesday. Those impressed by the city's turnaround have an excellent opportunity to express their appreciation.

Clarence Fanto is a former managing editor of The Eagle. He can be contacted by e-mail at cfanto@yahoo.com.

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11/6/2007

Dear Rinaldo Del Gallo III:

I noticed that the Berkshire Eagle endorsed all of the local Pittsfield political candidates who have unconscionably allowed the FRAUDULENT Consent Decree to continue to play out by the capping of many of Pittsfield's toxic waste sites, including "Hill 78" by Allendale Elementary School.

Rinaldo, the problem with Pittsfield is that the city government acts like it is a wealthy financial institution, and that its wealthy residents and businesses are its primary stakeholders and therefore beneficiaries. To be clearer, that means have-not people like you and me do NOT really count.

With Pittsfield's PCB pollution sites, the Consent Decree served GE (then-CEO Jack Welch) in that GE is only obligated to pay for the clean-up of its toxic waste sites now, not several decades into the future. Most of the toxic waste sites are capped or in the process of being capped, and GE is only paying the clean-up costs now, not in the future--say 2030. However, it is common knowledge that these caps last no longer than 25-years and then become useless or ineffective. In around the year 2030, Pittsfield's toxic waste sites will have to be cleaned up and re-capped again. Who is going to pay for this similar project nearly 25 years from now in the future? If no one pays the bill in 2030, future Pittsfield residents will be exposed to toxic PCB pollutants AGAIN!

-

On a personal note, my mother was born and raised in Pittsfield. She has had cancer three times in her life now. Once in 1990, again last year, and now again this year (2007). I have seen countless numbers of Pittsfield residents contract cancer, like my mother. I called my mom this morning to check up on her and she told me she is in pain. Pittsfield, Massachusetts' PCB toxic pollution makes me so goddamned angry, Rinaldo!

-

Pittsfield's city government knew damn well what they were doing when they signed the Consent Decree with GE, along with the Commonwealth and the Feds. Pittsfield's city government was acting like it always acts, like a financial institution only serving GE's wealthy interests. GE agreed to pay the down-payment on the clean-up, while the "mortgage" will end in default foreclosure. Pittsfield's thinking was that GE will keep its plastics division in Pittsfield if we ink this devilish deal with them. Well, we now know that did not work out!

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You are a father's rights Attorney, Rinaldo, so let us put Pittsfield's behavior in another, allegoric light. It is sort of like Pittsfield being a poor woman who gets pregnant hoping that the wealthy man who impregnated her will pay her way, but the man reneges on his promises to her and her child after about 5 years, and then the poor woman is back in public housing and welfare assistance programs with her neglected child who is now doomed to grow up poor and into adulthood without enough resources to succeed in life. Rinaldo, that mother and child is symbolic of PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts!, and GE is the father who made only the false promises and initial downpayments and then left his former family in ruin.

-

Rinaldo, break these facts down for me, please.

#1 - PITTSFIELD's PUBLIC SCHOOLS are in a state of CRISIS!

PARODY: "Hello, wealthy residents and businesses. We will keep your taxes artificially low by screwing over our current and future middle class residents by not addressing the public educational needs of our children.", says Pittsfield City Hall.

"Pittsfield's test scores are among the lowest in the state. Dropout rates that are among the highest. School buildings are in need of repair." ("School crossing: Amid struggles, district eyes different direction", Berkshire Eagle, 9/30/2007).

#1a - "Pittsfield graduate rates low; Ranked in bottom 13% in state" (The Berkshire Eagle, Friday, February 02, 2007): "Pittsfield graduated only 67.6 percent of its students who entered high school in 2002, a number that climbed to 72.9 percent among students who spent all four years at Pittsfield high schools."

#2 - TEEN PREGNANCIES IN PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts double the statewide average.

PARODY: "HELLO, skyrocketing number of welfare caseloads in Pittsfield. That means we, the city government acting like a financial institution serving its wealthy stakeholders, will continue to complement the tens of millions we annually receive from the state administered, federally appropriated social service, including public education, dollars to our diminishing tax base to keep taxes down for our wealthy friends on Crofut Street as well as for our remaining wealthy businesses.", says Pittsfield City Hall.

Pittsfield's teen birth rate nearly doubles the statewide figure. The following numbers reflect the amount of teen pregnancies for every thousand girls in 2004: Massachusetts 22, Pittsfield 43. (Teen births - BERKSHIRE County -Wednesday, March 22, 2006).

#2a - "Teen pregnancy up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts" (By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, January 25, 2007): "The teen pregnancy rate rose in Pittsfield in 2005, even as the state and national numbers declined...There were 67 babies born to mothers aged 15 to 19 in Pittsfield in 2005."
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Teen births in Pittsfield per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19:
2000 — 42.6
2001 — 36
2002 — 44.8
2003 — 52.9
2004 — 46.4*
2005 — 52.7
*The DPH revised this number this year to take into account a change in Pittsfield's estimated population. The number published in 2006 was 43.4.

#2b - News Article: The Washington Post Online: Teen Pregnancy, Birth Rates Plummet Across D.C. Region, By Susan Levine, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, October 29, 2007; Page A01

~In Part~

In a country with the worst rates in the industrialized world, officials have focused on teen pregnancies and births because of their distressing, lifelong ramifications.

Adolescent mothers frequently compromise not only their health but also their future, dropping out of school and struggling financially. Their babies are at greater risk for a host of problems, including low birth weight and abuse, neglect and poor academic performance.

"Teen childbearing affects young people at both ends of childhood," the Annie E. Casey Foundation has noted.

ADDENDUM: On average, U.S. children lose their virginity at age 16. SOURCE: "Study Debunks Theory On Teen Sex, Delinquency - New Analyses Challenging Many Old Assumptions" (By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, November 11, 2007; Page A03).

ADDENDUM #2:

News Article:
"Report: U.S. teen births rise"
By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer, December 5, 2007

The nation's teen birth rate has risen for the first time in 14 years, according to a new government report.

The birth rate had been dropping since 1991. The decline had slowed in recent years, but government statisticians said Wednesday it jumped 3 percent from 2005 to 2006.

"It took us by surprise," said Stephanie Ventura of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a co-author of the report.

The birth data for 2006 also showed births to unmarried mothers hit a new record high, and the overall birth rate has climbed to its highest level since 1971.

The teen increase was based on the 15-19 age group, which accounted for about 99 percent of the more than 440,000 births to teens in 2006.

The rate rose to 41.9 live births per 1,000 females in that age group, up from 40.5 in 2005.

#3 - Pittsfield's Economic Development Public Policies have had the WORST possible outcome!

PARODY: "Hello, poor young man or woman. Your options are to work for Carmen at his County Jail or end up in Carmen's Jail (not much of a choice, is it?), or you can move away from the area because you are never going to find a job here if you are not beholden to the political insider's Good Old Boy's Network. You are either in or your out. Those are your two options in Pittsfield!", says Pittsfield City Hall.

"Currently the Berkshires have the highest rate of job loss in Massachusetts." ("Bump looks to address job losses in Berkshires", Capital News 9, 2/19/2007)

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Those are all of the TERRIBLE outcomes by the Ruberto Regime!, which has been in power since early-January of 2004. Rinaldo, Jimmy Ruberto is not selling "Pittsfield". Rather, Jimmy Ruberto is selling out Pittsfield to the wealthy residents and businesses.

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You did a great job, Rinaldo, telling off Clarence Fanto!

CLARENCE FANTO is a PROPAGANDA MACHINE for the Ruberto Regime and its PERVERSE SOCIETAL OUTCOMES!

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Best regards to Rinaldo Del Gallo III! However, for both the Ruberto Regime and Clarence Fanto: In Dissent!,
-Jonathan A. Melle

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11/6/2007

RINALDO DEL GALLO III wrote:

I like Jimmy and will be holding a sign for him (which I shall be doing in a few hours as I write this)--that said, I think it is a simple matter of record that over the last two years there has been record population loss in Massachusetts, particularly in Boston proper and in the Berkshires.
My question read as follows:

ECONOMY:

Deval Patrick was elected to office due to the sluggish Massachusetts economy. Massachusetts was the only state in the nation to experience population loss for two years in a row, with population loss accelerated the most in Boston proper and Berkshire County. Most people believe that the population loss in Pittsfield and Berkshire County is directly attributable to the poor job outlook. In fact, many argue that Pittsfield’s population loss is a better measure of the economy than our unemployment rate, since many people have already used their unemployment and are included as employed. During the gubernatorial election, on May 19, 2006, the Boston Globe observed that Massachusetts ranked 45th in terms of job growth. In a February 19, 2007 Channel 9 story, Karin Honickel, who does the Berkshire beat, stated that, “currently the Berkshires have the greatest job loss in Massachusetts.” In politics, incumbents want to state the economy is strong and that they need to be kept in office so they can stay the course—they often drop the names of a few local companies that are hiring; challengers want to say the economy is weak and that it is time for a change. By way of example, according to an October 28, 2006 Boston Globe article, then Lieutenant Governor Healy said “not to talk down Massachusetts.” According to Mathew Kerwood’s website, “The state of our City is strong and getting stronger everyday.” There are many people in our city that believe, despite what candidates may say, that the economic outlook is bad and if not bleak, and that there are not enough jobs that pay a living wage in Pittsfield.

Is the Pittsfield economy under-performing, or is there an abundance of jobs that pay a living wage that just cannot be filled with our present workforce as the mayor says is the case? Please give our local economy an A, B, C, D or F, and provide a 1-minute answer to justify your position.

With all respect for Mr. Fanto, I don't think the data supports the proposition that population loss in Pittsfield or the Berkshires has been stopped, or that there has been a surge (or even substantial increase) in jobs that pay a living wage. Most people on the stree think that I have talked to believe the Berkshire economy is bad. So many running for office claim that we are doing well, I thought it worth asking the candidates for office themselves.

In 2005, the year I ran for city council, the Eagle editorials wrote extensively about the massive improvement in Pittsfield. In 2006, when they wanted Deval Patrick to win, they spoke about how bad things are in Berkshire County. In 2007, now that they want the incumbents to win again, we hear more stories about the rebuilding of Pittsfield. It is impossible to take such politically motivated evaluations of the economy seriously, and the Pittsfield economy was not a boom town in 2005, reaching an extreme nadir in 2006, only to be blossoming again in 2005.

That the economy of Pittsfield has gone down tremednously can been seen by the low MCAS scores and high dropout rate--a reflection that the people living here are not the middle class of the 70's. The larger problem is the Eagle's continuing effort to conflate building a downtown with economic improvement--the advent of SPICE, the Colonial Theater coupled with continued economic stagnation continue to show that the two are not as related as people think. Despite these achievments, the areas continues to experience record job losses, population loss, and a lack of living wage jobs.

Mr. Fanto can stan by his story all he wants, but the argument that, "despair, gripped by low morale as the city hemorrhaged jobs and population losses" is a thing of the past is completely without an emperical basis in fact. The sad part is that while there appears to be a facade of being optimistic (hey, we are doing so well), it really is negativity--we can't get high tech, industry, or a company that employs many white collar workers so when we don't get them, we will not fault local government. By definition, it is those that believe we can get high tech, industry, or a company that employs many white collar workers that are "optimist," but not according to those who write for the Berkshire Eagle.

What would work?

1. CRITICALLY IMPORTANT: One-stop permit shopping.

2. CRITICALLY IMPORTANT: A 90 day maximum on the permit process.

3.CRITICALLY IMPORTANT: Known incentive packages for certain types of industry (to create initial interest) rather than a "come down and talk to us about incentives approach" which every city in the nation has. For instance--why can't all biotech companies be tax free? Or how about setting certain job creation paramaters and making tax incentives for all that meet those paramaters.

4. Getting greater participation of Mass Development in PEDA.

5. Opening PEDA up to the public and televising their shows.

6. Hiring someone at PEDA to help (not replace) Tom Hickey and who has experience developing industrial parks and has a background in economic development. (Who might bring their own ideas that I never though of).

7. A business retention program by regularly visiting companies that are major employers.

If you read the Eagle editorials--these types of concrete ideas are really "negativity." Any substantive proposals--granted, Donna did not have enough--are merely ignored.

If you want to know where Pittsfield might be if all "goes according to plan," look at Great Barrington. There are very few jobs that pay a living wage, there is population loss in this area (save for second home owners), yet the Eagle holds it out as a model of economic excellence.

South county shows that you have top-notch culture and build your downtowns and yet fail to rejuvinate an economy because these things have little to do with attracting companies (who are much more intersted in the quality of the workforce, taxes, the price of the workforce, the regulatory burden, the cost of living, the cost of housing, and the quality of schools [in no particular order]). South county has not been able to attract companies and has in fact lost several mills because frankly, cultural amenities and quaint downtowns are far down on the list of attracting companies to move to the area. Despite REPEATED proof of this economic fact, the mere addition of cultural amenities and some news downtown stores is being championed as economic revitilazation itself. Economic revitilation, by definition, is a measure of the creation of jobs, with an emphasis on the creation of living wage jobs.

It would be nice if there were some honest reflection on the over 6 years of effort to restore our economy through downtown development and cultural institutions. If you think Mass Moca did a lot for job creation in North Adams, you are going to love the Colonial Theater. There are those of us--particularly those of us not in the job market--that "wants to feel good about ourselves." Then there are working stiffs like myself--not retired and not working for the government--that wants real economic opportunities and is not insulated from the economic declines we have been experiencing.

As for our mayor, Jimmy is the most qualified to hold that office and really cares about our city and I support him. If want to sell Pittsfield, I need to be able to complete the following sentences.

Stay in Pittsfield because . . . .

Come to Pittsfield because . . . .

Mr. Fanto, the Eagle, and frankly too many in local government believes that what can follow is "we have a rejuvinated downtown and great new theater and a beutiful countryside." Certainly, this is a positive thing to say--but it pales in comparison to the factors I previously indicated.

I want to be able to say, "you should come to Pittsfield because as a biotech company that pays employees at least $70,000 per year, with a guarantee that your employees will live in Pittsfield, we will not only guarantee you that you will not pay property taxes, but we will provide free (or rock bottom rent) office space. If you come and create x jobs in y field, we will start a program teaching people how to use your technology at BCC . . . .Oh, and by the way, check out the Colonial Theater and Spice Restaurant." The Colonial Theater is the "cherry on top," not the main draw.

What makes me feel bad is that I throw out ideas that other have used elsewhere--and save for the 180 day permit limit at PEDA (a damn good thing)--I am ignored.

http://www.massdevelopment.com/press/06092006-01.aspx *

Granted, Fort Devens had a lot more money to spend.

In its endorsement for Jimmy Ruberto for Mayor, the Berkshire Eagle said, "Pittsfield, like most northeastern cities, is seeking businesses that provide good-paying jobs, and mayoral challenger Donna Walto has been critical of the performance of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority in the campaign. PEDA only took control of the initial 27 acres constituting the William Stanley Business Park from General Electric just two years ago, and the larger reality is that business and industry today are looking more closely at China and India, where wages are cheap and benefits non-existent, than Pittsfield or any other northeastern community. Mayors have no influence over the global marketplace, but they can make their cities attractive to businesses that may want to settle in a community like Pittsfield. Mayor Ruberto, with the assistance of an enlightened City Council, has given Pittsfield a huge advantage over rivals by rebuilding downtown, which is the face a city shows to visitors."

While mayors have no influence over the global market place (and there is no doubt the US is losing high tech and manufacturing), the global market place has not stopped Fort Devens from coming back. There is an air of fatalism in the Eagle editorial regarding the impossiblity of ever obtaining high tech or industry.

What do I want out of local government. Not even necessarily jobs--just implementation of these 8 ideas (and others) to try to make a real attempt to attract these companies. I would wish these ideas would be taken seriously, and not merely dismissed as "negativity," or with a "were are sort of already doing that." But for this to happen, postive suggestions have to be taken as just that--sincere suggestions for a brighter Pittsfield. Unfortunately, they can be wrongly be taken as veiled criticisms that things could be done better or that things are not being done right. And when that starts to happen, we have a govenement that is no longer willing to look outside itself for ideas.

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* MassDevelopment In The News

Devens Thriving as Old Fort's Leaders Put Businesses at Ease
June 9, 2006: The Boston Globe, by Robert Gavin and Charlie Russo

AYER - When the Army closed Fort Devens in 1996, after 79 years as a military base, the state and nearby communities inherited abandoned buildings, contaminated land, and a big hole in the economy of this part of Central Massachusetts.

But state development officials and leaders from the three communities that Devens spans came up with an unusual plan to woo businesses. Now, the sprawling property has more than 80 companies with 4,200 workers - double the base's civilian employment in 1991, when its closing was first announced.

In just a decade, Devens, as it is now called, has gone from basket case to showcase, a transformation underscored last week by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s decision to build a $660 million manufacturing plant here.

"Devens is a new municipal form," said Jeffrey Simon, the first state official in charge of Devens's redevelopment. "When state and local government get together, everyone puts politics aside. It happens faster."

Devens has several attributes that make it attractive to businesses: lots of open space, making it easy for companies to build new facilities or expand existing ones; its own utilities, often at cheaper rates than elsewhere in Massachusetts; and 90-day permitting, which guarantees businesses both speed and certainty in getting buildings reviewed.

Devens also hired its own commercial real estate broker, Lowell Peabody, senior vice president at NAI Hunneman, to scout for companies to locate there and to market its advantages.

Peabody said the permitting timetable, unusually fast for Massachusetts, is a powerful lure. Typically, Massachusetts communities and state agencies can take months, even years, scrutinizing building projects for size and impact, such as traffic, suggesting time-consuming modifications, and sometimes rejecting the proposals. Companies in the Bay State often complain that Massachusetts stifles job growth with hostile regulations and torturous reviews.

Now, business leaders in the state say Devens's 90-day permitting process could be a model for other communities.

"For Massachusetts, Devens is the exception that proves the rule," said John Regan, vice president of government affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts. "For companies for whom time is money - and that pretty much includes everybody - the idea that you'll get permitted within 90 days has got to be an advantage."

Moreover, Devens's success shows that economic development requires long-term investments in transportation, utilities, and public services, said Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. "You have to start with the idea that economic development is not a one- or two-year proposition," he said.

Two key developments helped spark the revival of Devens: the state's decision to pour money into property upgrades, and the Legislature's creation of a unique governing structure in 1993, with the approval of the towns of Ayer, Harvard, and Shirley.

The 1993 legislation established the 4,400-acre as a planned community, governed by the Devens Enterprise Commission, a panel of six local residents and six representatives from the region's business community. The commission's operations are supported by permitting fees and 2 percent of property taxes paid by Devens businesses and residents for municipal services.

Devens is close to Route 2 and interstates 190 and 495, and it's an easy drive to Boston's research institutions. A commercial rail line runs through the property, and it has its own electric, water, gas and sewer systems, originally built for the Army base.

MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency, bought Devens from the Army in 1996 for $17 million. It has spent $144 million over the past 10 years to rebuild roads, demolish buildings, and expand the old fort's systems. Devens has an aquifer to supply water.

The upgrades have given Devens the capacity to host industrial companies and offer cheap utility rates. Its electric rates, for example, are almost half those of other private utilities.

One company, Bionostics Inc., lopped 40 percent from its electricity costs after it relocated to Devens in 2001, said Kelly Winn, vice president of finance. The company, which makes liquids used in calibrating medical instruments, had outgrown its facilities in Acton and considered sites as far away as Lewiston, Maine, to expand.

Another key to Devens's success, economic development specialists say, is that the enterprise commission serves as a single permitting panel, in contrast to the more common municipal structure under which three or four boards or agencies review projects.

"There's no doubt that when businesses see they can be permitted and in the ground quickly, it's a big incentive," said Robert Culver, MassDevelopment's chief executive.

Bristol-Myers cited the speedy and straightforward permitting as a key factor in choosing Devens. The company wants to break ground in September, produce test batches of drugs in 2009, and begin commercial production in 2011.

Speed was also important to American Superconductor Corp., which in 2000 was looking to build a factory to produce its super-conducting wire. Devens offered low power costs and enough land for future expansion - but it was the prompt permitting that sealed the deal for the Westborough company.

"You're always looking to move fast," said Greg Yurek, American Superconductor's chief executive, who estimated Devens's permitting shaved six months from the project, compared to other communities that were considered. "That made it kind of easy for us when we saw that they were willing to do that fast-tracking."

Streamlining the permitting maze in Massachusetts is considered crucial to improving the state's competitiveness, business and economic development officials said.

The system at Devens grew from an unusual situation, and it's unlikely that other communities, where the review boards are established by law and tradition, would adopt the same permitting process. The Legislature, however, is considering a bill that would offer state grants to communities to set aside properties for development and guarantee a six-month approval process in these areas.

"If the state is serious about job growth, we can't have companies stuck in permitting limbo," said Ranch Kimball, secretary of economic development. "We need a standardized, expedited process so communities can choose to create their own little Devens."

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Election Day 2007
City contests decided today
Voters in Pittsfield will decide city elections today
Berkshire Eagle Staff report
Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In Pittsfield, contested races for mayor, some City Council seats, and School Committee are on the ballot. All offices are for two-year terms.

There are five candidates seeking four at-large City Council positions, and contests in Ward 1 and Ward 2. The other five ward councilors are unopposed.

The School Committee race has garnered the most candidates this year, with 11 people competing for six seats.

And, in a rematch of 2005, incumbent Mayor James M. Ruberto is facing a challenge from Donna Walto.

Pittsfield voters will also be asked whether they support legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts. This question is non-binding.

Pittsfield races:

Pittsfield Mayor
James M. Ruberto (birthday is Dec. 10, 1946; Education: Villanova University, bachelor's degree; UMass-Amherst, MBA; St. Joseph's High School.; Professional Experience: Senior or Executive Vice President of Plicon Corp., Rexene Corp. and Huntsman Packaging Corp. between 1976 and 2000.)

Donna M. Walto (58; Previous political experience: Mayoral candidate in 2005; at large City Council candidate in 2003.; Education: Williams College, bachelor's degree; Pittsfield High School.; Professional Experience: Owns Berkshire Backwoods Touring Company.; Family: Three children.)

Councilor at large (vote for four)
Matthew M. Kerwood
Gerald M. Lee (City Council President; 8-years already served on the Pittsfield City Council—running for fifth term this year (2007); Career local police officer from 1969 to 1998—retired as chief.)
Peter M. Marchetti
Marjorie E. Cohan (recently retired director of the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.)
Kevin J. Sherman (served three years as an aide to former Democratic State Rep. Christopher J. Hodgkins)

Ward 1 councilor
Lewis Markham Jr.
William D. Bean

Ward 2 councilor
Louis A. Costi
Kevin J. Morandi

Pittsfield's five other ward councilors are unopposed.

School Committee (vote for six)
Kathleen A. Amuso
Daniel C. Elias
Angel G. Ramirez Jr.
S. Daltrey Turner
Dorothy J. van den Honert
William S. Ballen
Churchill Cotton
George J. Desnoyers Jr.
Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.
Erin Sullivan
Peter T. White.

Question 1 (non-binding referendum)
Do you support legalizing casinos in Massachusetts?
(a petition submitted by former City Councilor Peter G. Arlos)

Eagle election endorsements
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial (In brief)
Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pittsfield and North Adams voters go to the polls today to take part in municipal elections. Campaign season was quiet in both cities, but voting gives residents a direct say in determining the path of their communities, and those who sit out the process forfeit their right to criticize the result. The Eagle endorses Mayor James Ruberto for re-election in Pittsfield, along with at large councilors Gerald Lee and Peter Marchetti, both of whom are incumbents, and challengers Marjorie Cohan and Kevin Sherman. The Eagle endorses Lew Markham for re-election in Ward 1 and incumbent Lou Costi in Ward 2. The Eagle also endorses a No vote on a question on the Pittsfield ballot asking if voters support casino gambling in Massachusetts. In North Adams, where there is no race for mayor, The Eagle endorses incumbent city councilors Gailanne M. Cariddi, Michael Bloom, Robert Moulton Jr., Ronald Boucher, Clark H. Billings, Alan L. Marden, Marie T. Harpin, Richard J. Alcombright and Christopher J. Tremblay.

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Election 2007: Incumbents reign
Sherman, 10 holdovers win seats on Council
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Kevin J. Sherman won the open seat on the City Council last night, joining 10 incumbents who were returned to office following a city election marked by the lowest turnout in at least a dozen years.

For Kevin Sherman, 30, the campaign was his first since he ran for state representative in 2002, losing to William "Smitty" Pignatelli in the Democratic primary. Last night, Sherman claimed the fourth at-large seat, finishing above Marjorie E. Cohan by 6,085 to 5,736 votes.

"I can't stop smiling," he said. "I'm a little bit numb. It was a long road. I credit all the other candidates. (Fifth-place finisher Cohan) ran the hardest-working campaign I've ever seen, and I'm looking forward to talking with her, and I'm looking forward to working with the other councilors."

Asked what issues will confront the city when he takes office in January, Sherman reeled off a litany that grew familiar during the campaign — education, economic development and land use.

Born and raised in the city, Kevin Sherman repeatedly stressed his love for Pittsfield on the campaign trail. Hoping to convince others to share that love, he proposed an alumni task force that would seek out former city residents and try to lure them back.

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In Ward 1, Lewis C. Markham won easily over William D. Bean, a former Lee selectman, with 876 votes to Bean's 298, according to the unofficial tally.

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In Ward 2, three-time incumbent Louis A. Costi narrowly kept his seat on the 11-member council, edging challenger Kevin Morandi by 22 votes in unofficial results last night from the city clerk's office.

Kevin Morandi took a strong stance on the Hill 78 landfill, a PCB dump that sits across the street from Allendale Elementary School and that has been a center of controversy. Morandi called for the dump's removal, although he offered no plan for how that would be accomplished.

Lou Costi, on the other hand, said it would be impractical to move the dump, which is sanctioned by the federal government and allowed under the terms of the PCB settlement signed by Pittsfield, General Electric Co., and state and federal regulators. Instead, Costi said, the city must push for regulators to monitor the dump and keep the lines of communication with residents open.

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As in 2001, Peter M. Marchetti was the top vote-getter in the at-large race, winning all 14 precincts with 7,018 votes. City Council President Gerald M. Lee finished second with 6,340 votes, and Matthew M. Kerwood third with 6,097.

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Without the star power of a vigorous mayoral race or the gravitational pull of a citywide controversy, voters stayed away from the polls yesterday. Of the 28,564 registered voters, only 9,515 cast ballots, yielding a scant 33 percent turnout, the lowest in at least 12 years.

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Jim Ruberto wins third term with ease
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto was re-elected to his third consecutive two-year term last night, easily defeating challenger Donna M. Walto in a rematch of the 2005 mayoral race.

Ruberto received 6,515 votes to Walto's 2,533 in the unofficial results. He captured 72 percent of the votes to Walto's 28. He received 71 percent of the total votes cast when he beat Walto in September's preliminary election, and took 72 percent of the votes when he defeated her two years ago.

"It's a great day for Pittsfield and a great day for Ellen and me," Ruberto said, referring to his wife, when he addressed a crowd of roughly 150 supporters at the Italian-American Club on Newell Street after the results had been tabulated.

"From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank Pittsfield for supporting a progressive agenda," he said.

Ruberto repeated his performance in the 2005 election, finishing first in all 14 precincts in the city's seven wards. He received more than 600 votes in three precincts. His largest margin of victory occurred in Ward 4, Precinct B, where he received 801 votes to Walto's 235.

Donna Walto received more than 200 votes in five precincts, with a high of 272 in Ward 7, Precinct B.

Michele Gagnon, who also voted in Ward 3B, said she chose Walto because of the ongoing contract dispute between the city and the members of the emergency dispatchers' union. Her husband is a union member, Gagnon said.

Gagnon said Ruberto has taken credit for other people's accomplishments.

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City returns winning team
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Wednesday, November 07, 2007

James Ruberto's decisive election to a third term as mayor of Pittsfield last night constitutes a vote of confidence from an electorate that is pleased with the mayor's performance and optimistic about the future. There are challenges ahead, but the city has again chosen the right person to confront them.

While Mr. Ruberto defeated Donna Walto by a slightly smaller margin than he did two years ago, mayors will pick up enemies along the way, especially if they are shaking up a community that had grown too comfortable with failed ways of thinking. Change can be traumatic, but Mr. Ruberto's aggressive approach has brought change that most voters are clearly happy with.

The mayor will again have a capable City Council as a partner, as atlarge incumbents Peter Marchetti, Gerald Lee and Matt Kerwood were re-elected along with promising newcomer Kevin Sherman. Challenger Marjorie Cohan was the odd candidate out, but by a narrow margin in a race offering five good choices. Councilors Lew Markham in Ward 1 and Lou Costi in Ward 2, both of whom have worked hard to address the problems unique to their inner city wards, won new terms, though Mr. Costi barely withstood a challenge from political novice Kevin Morandi.

The School Committee race was a real mixed bag, as voters chose newcomers Churchill Cotton and Erin Sullivan, nominal newcomer Carmen Massimiano, who while off the committee this term had served on it for 10 years, eight as chairman, and incumbents Kathleen Amuso, who is the current chairman, Daniel Elias and Angel G. Ramirez Jr. The candidates did little to distinguish themselves from one another in the campaign, and if major change was in the offing at one point, modest change was the result on Tuesday.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Voters pass casino query
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

PITTSFIELD — City voters yesterday voted in favor of legalizing casino gambling in Massachusetts, supporting a nonbinding referendum by almost 2,000 votes.

In the unofficial results, the ballot question received 5,422 yes votes and 3,845 no votes. Because the question is nonbinding, the city is not bound by the results.

The yes votes outnumbered the no votes in every city precinct except Ward 4, Precinct A, where it was defeated 468 votes to 426.

The City Council had voted in September to place the referendum on the ballot, approving a petition filed by former City Councilor Peter G. Arlos.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick filed legislation with the House last month that would allow three resort-style casinos in Massachusetts. The suggested sites are greater Boston, southeastern Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts.

Mayor James M. Ruberto, a Patrick supporter, has said he is in favor of casino gambling but not in Berkshire County because it would interfere with the focus on culture in this part of the state.

"I voted for it so I don't have to go all the way to Mohegan Sun," said Robert Parslow, who also voted in Ward 1A. "Hopefully, it'll bring in more money so it doesn't go out of state."

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Reader's Commentary, 11/7/2007

About 1/3rd of the public do not gamble. Most of those who gamble in casinos do not have gambling problems.

What is not always known is that about 65% of money lost in casinos comes from about 10% of the public, disproportionately represented by the elderly, low income groups, racial minorities and people with addiction problems. About 30% of people with alcohol problems also have gambling problems.

The Pittsfield vote in support of casinos and Mayor Ruberto's position in support of casinos as long as they do not site one in Pittsfield, reminds me of the G.B. Shaw quote, "When government robs Peter to pay Paul, they will always have the support of Paul."

Tom Larkin
246 Carlisle Road
Bedford, Ma. 01730
781-275-8175
(Tom Larkin is a psychologist and a SMART Recovery Facilitator)

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News Article:
The Pittsfield Gazette (Jonathan Levine)
Pittsfield candidates update financial reports
01.NOV.07

Municipal campaign finance reports filed this week at City Hall follow the patterns evident during the first cycle of reports in September.

Overall expenditures are down, primarily because the mayoral race has been lower key than past years.

The latest reports cover from just prior to the preliminary election through October 19.

MAYOR: Mayoral challenger Donna Walto actually raised more money during the period than incumbent James Ruberto, though her under-$2,000 campaign war chest is still dwarfed by the $67,000 Jim Ruberto has on hand.

Walto reported taking in $1,940 in campaign donations, all below the $50 threshold that requires identifying donors. Walto spent $1,129 to purchase lawn signs.

During the prior reporting period, Walto had no fundraising or expenditures.

Ruberto added $1,721 to his campaign during the five-week period, bringing his total for the year thus far over $38,000.

More than 99 percent of Jim Ruberto’s money has come from donations of $100 or greater.

New donors to the Ruberto campaign include Phil Adamo, Frederick Farrell, Brian Gladden, Raymond Kushi, Gerald Murray, Beth Pearson and Robert Quattrochi.

Ruberto had a fundraiser scheduled this week. Receipts from that event will appear in his January finance report.

AT-LARGE COUNCIL: Kevin Sherman – who led fundraising through the first reporting period d — added $1,850 to his account. Major new donors include Paul Capitanio, J. Steven Cella, Frederick Farrell, John Herman, Joseph Kroboth, Thomas Lussier and Joseph Woitkowski.

Sherman was the biggest spender during the period, with expenditures of $5,915 led by printing, radio ads and postage.

Peter Marchetti added $2,340 to his campaign coffers, with donations from Faisal Ali, Mary Deblieux, Evan Dobelle, Robert Fox and William Hines.

He spent $3,112 during the period, including $842 for campaign literature, $664 for signs and $332 for pencils.

Updated figures for Matt Kerwood were not available at City Hall. He had spent $6,122 through the first reporting period.

Marge Cohan added $1,508 to her account and spent $655.
Gerald Lee reported no fundraising or expenditures.

WARD COUNCIL: In ward one, William Bean reported no financial activity. Incumbent Lew Markham raised $150 and spent no money.

In ward two, Lou Costi had $345 in his account but reported no activity. Kevin Morandi raised $773 and spent $748. He spent $500 on lawn signs.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE: The newfound influence of money in the previously low-budget school committee race continues to evolve.

Five candidates – George Desnoyers, Dan Elias, Carmen Massimiano, Angel Ramirez and Dorothy van den Honert — had no fundraising or expenditures during the period.

Churchill Cotton added $979 to his account and spent $1,234, primarily for lawn signs and stickers.

Daltrey Turner had no new fundraising, but spent $414 on lawn signs.
William Ballen raised $1,355 and spent $868.

Kathleen Amuso — who had raised $2,774 previously — added $345 to her account and spent $768.

Erin Sullivan appears poised to be the biggest spender. She had raised $2,402 previously and added another $2,075.

POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE: The WHEN political action committee spent $1,272 during the period, primarily for an ad in The Berkshire Eagle. The organization — which previously donated funds to six candidates — had $6,752 on hand at the end of the reporting committee.

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Political tribalism hinders Pittsfield
Letters
Friday, November 16, 2007

I take issue with Bruce Spaniol's letter of Nov. 13 ("City remains a decaying backwater.")

First of all, although parts of it always have been and always will be decaying, I do not believe Pittsfield as a whole is decaying. Second, and more importantly, his prescription we should "start taking care of people who live in and built this city and not the ones who just drive through" starts out wrong and ends up meaningless.

Granted, I am not a life-long resident, but I did move to Pittsfield when I was only 22 and am 57 now. I've lived in this house for 25 years, spent four years on the City Council and raised two grown kids who aren't coming back except to visit. Ninety years ago you couldn't keep them down on the farm once they'd seen gay Paris. Today they aren't coming back to the Berkshires once they've lived in Boston and D.C.

No, Pittsfield is not the city of almost 60,000 souls I moved into, with WGRG on the radio, GE employing upwards to 10,000, pot wafting through the air at the Spaghetti Factory and an afternoon newspaper that occasionally admitted a Republican might have a point. So what? Neither is any other city in America like that, nor what it was 35 years ago. Change is constant. The problem as I see it is not that Pittsfield is worse than it used to be, its just that it isn't any better either. Here's my theory why.

What strikes me as unique about Pittsfield is its brain-dead political tribalism. The faces change, but the names of the movers and shakers stay the same: Nuciforo, Downing, Pignatelli, Doyle, Ruberto, Capeless, Speranzo. The mother of the "new" guy on the City Council's is a Del Gallo.

I'll freely admit I like and have voted for some of these people and make no apologies for that. But at some point you need to step back and ask yourself: Should political DNA enjoy squatter's rights to this extent? There's no denying it does, and its consequences are brutally obvious.

We couldn't build a bypass, but we can rebuild an old theater. We couldn't build a new mall downtown, but we can rebuild its old buildings.

We no longer need two high schools, but can't find the political will to close one down. We could have had a new ballpark, but wouldn't consider tearing down the old one. No one swims or fishes in the Housatonic, but for how long has its restoration been the biggest construction project in town? Pittsfield is famous as an illegal drug emporium, but when was the last time our police chief was a serious cop as opposed to a native who'd paid his dues?

Institutional memory is not a bad thing, but sclerosis is. For Pittsfield to improve, not just tread water, its political culture needs a dose of Darwinism and/or creative destruction. Until that happens, every good thing will be trumped by a bad.

ERIC BISS
Pittsfield

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Pittsfield remains a decaying backwater
Letters
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Having lived in Pittsfield all my life, I have seen this city change for the good and for the bad. With the loss of jobs in the city and seeing no real jobs in our future, higher taxes, less services, I had to respond after reading the article about the Yankee Magazine in the Berkshires and how it refers to Pittsfield as "The Most Surprising City in New England." It made me stop and wonder what Pittsfield they were writing about.

Although Pittsfield has some good things going for itself, most of those things are focusing on outsiders and not the people who really live here. Emerging charms, eats, art, cultural hot spots and secret places. I would like to add a few comments about the real Pittsfield from someone who lives here and not from someone who just drives through it.

Most of the people who live in this city can't afford any of the cultural hot spots the magazine mentioned. The Colonial Theatre is beautiful, but can most citizens afford it? No — unless, of course, they want to sit in the nosebleed area on a bench.

The Barrington Stage — again, a great theater but, again, too pricey for most of the people who live here.

I can go on and on.

Spice, Brix Wine Bar, U.S.-Bluesware, the Ferrin gallery on North Street. The city is reinventing itself, but not for the people who really live here, it's mostly for the rich and the second home owners, like in Great Barrington, Lenox, Stockbridge, Williamstown and all the other hot spots in Berkshire Country where many local residents are being priced out of the housing and rental markets. We see ads for Boston and New York style apartments or condos that we can't afford to rent or buy, single family homes we can only afford to drive by.
The Times of London declared Pittsfield "a decaying backwater on the western edge of the state." Well if you leave North Street it still is. Increased taxes and big investments in this city are not helping the people who really live here but are being driven out by all these improvements.

If Yankee Magazine, The New York Times and Country Magazine want to see the real Pittsfield, the one with the large pile of PCBs in the back yard of our school, the Boston-style drug dealers, the New York-style stabbings, the New York-style drive-by shootings, and of course the big city gangs, I would be happy to drive them around the real Pittsfield, away from the "Broadway lights of North Street" and into the decaying backwaters of Pittsfield. If the city really wants to reinvent itself, start taking care of the people who live in and built this city and not the ones who just drive through.

BRUCE E. SPANIOL
Pittsfield

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A contributor to new North St.
Letters
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It is wonderful to see North Street growing and becoming increasingly vibrant! Most evenings, restaurants are filled and there are wonderful things happening!

This past Saturday night some friends joined my husband and I at Dottie's Coffee Lounge where we enjoyed homemade gnocchi with asparagus and pesto sauce (a meat sauce was also available), a choice salad and delectable tiramasu served with quality coffee. "Lamscallop" provided compelling '60s and '70s music played and sung so beautifully, we did not want to leave. The BYOB policy made it possible to enjoy ourselves without an enormous bill.

I highly recommend this unique and charming establishment. You do need to call ahead and make reservations for dinner.

VICTORIA PASSER
Pittsfield

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Outgoing Pittsfield Police Chief Anthony J. Riello
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News Article:
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Interim police chief to be named soon
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, November 19, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto said last week that he expects to name a temporary replacement for outgoing Pittsfield Police Chief Anthony J. Riello sometime this week.

The position will be filled from within the Pittsfield Police Department and the person will be known as the "captain in charge," Ruberto said. That person will take over on Dec. 1, the day that Riello is scheduled to start as Falmouth's police chief.

Ruberto did not say from what rank he would choose the replacement. But he said the experience that the three captains have in leading various functions within the department would make them the best qualified candidates to lead the force on a temporary basis.

Of those captains, only Patrick F. Barry, who heads the detective unit, has served in his current position for more than five years. He was captain in-charge for several months in 2004 when Riello was recuperating from a neck injury.

Patrol Capt. David Granger was appointed after veteran Capt. David P. Reilly retired in August 2004.

Administrative Capt. Michael J. Wynn is listed as an acting captain because his predecessor, 40-year department veteran John T. O'Neil, will not officially retire until next month.

Ruberto said he has formed an ad hoc committee to study whether Riello's permanent replacement should be a non-civil service appointment.

That committee, which also is expected to be announced next week, will be composed of a retired police chief, a fire chief, a judge, a former state police officer and Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., Ruberto said. The mayor said he expects the board to begin meeting after Thanksgiving.

A non-civil service appointment would allow the city to conduct a regional or national search for Riello's replacement. Under the current civil service model, for example, the mayor does not have the authority to replace the police chief if he disagrees with him or his style of management.

The city switched the police chief's position from a civil service to non-civil service position in 1978, before changing it back in 1995.

"I want them to discuss the pros and cons," Ruberto said. "Clearly, I carry my own biases, and I want them challenged. And I anticipate with the group that's assembled that they will weigh through the issues so I can make a decision."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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News Article:
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Acting police chief named
Mayor James M. Ruberto appoints Michael J. Wynn to serve as 'captain in charge'
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto yesterday appointed acting Capt. Michael J. Wynn to run the Pittsfield Police Department until a permanent replacement is found for the outgoing police chief.

Wynn, 37, a 12-year veteran of the department, will be known as the "captain in charge." He will assume his duties Saturday, the day that Chief Anthony J. Riello officially becomes police chief in Falmouth.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," Wynn said yesterday. "I'm looking forward to working with everybody at the department."

He succeeded 40-year department veteran John T. O'Neil as the department's administrative captain in July. He is considered an "acting" captain because O'Neil's retirement is not official until next month. The City Council is expected to confirm Wynn's appointment in January.

Wynn has less experience than the department's two other captains: Patrick F. Barry, who heads the detective and narcotics units, and David Granger, who leads the patrol and traffic divisions. Barry served as captain in charge for several months in 2004 while Riello was recovering from neck surgery.

"I can't get into the whole details of the selection process, but it wasn't a complete surprise," Wynn said. "It was more surprising to me to be considered."

Ruberto said he was impressed with Wynn's leadership abilities, professionalism and focus.

"I think he will best serve the Pittsfield Police Department in the coming months," Ruberto said. "Mike Wynn is a captain's captain."

"I'm impressed that Mike Wynn cares, truly cares, about the health and safety of his fellow police officers," he added.

Born and raised in Pittsfield, Wynn graduated from Taconic High School in 1988 and from Williams College in 1993, where he earned bachelor's degrees in English literature and American studies. He earned a master's degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College in 2001 and has taken training courses with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

He joined the Pittsfield Police Department in October 1995, was promoted to sergeant in 2001 and to lieutenant in 2005. As a lieutenant, he worked with the department's special-response team. He also has served as a patrol supervisor, as a criminal investigator, as a gang intelligence officer and as director of the community police academy.

As a member of the West Side Neighborhood Resource Center, Wynn developed and managed the community policing and organizing facility.

Married for seven years, he has two stepchildren and two step-grandchildren.

"Captain Wynn is an excellent choice," Riello said. "Actually, any of the captains would have been. The three of them make up the command staff. ... They work very well together. With Mike in charge, I think the transition will be seamless, and they'll continue to get the job done."

Ruberto has formed a committee to study whether Riello's permanent replacement should be a non-civil service appointment. The city switched the police chief's position from civil service to non-civil service in 1978, before voters approved a ballot question in 1991 that changed it back.

When asked if the committee will include an active member of the Police Department, Ruberto said: "Until I am able to sit down with the (patrolmen's union), I'm not in a position to comment."

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Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto outlines plans for his third term in office recently.

Photo by Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff

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News Article:
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Ruberto: Sacrifices needed
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, November 19, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Following his victory over challenger Donna M. Walto on Election Day, Mayor James M. Ruberto gave an acceptance speech that touched on several ongoing or upcoming projects and on two key words: sacrifice and pain.

At first glance, those words seem out of place from a mayor who constantly touts the accomplishments of a city that has changed significantly under his watch, so much so that Yankee Magazine recently termed Pittsfield "The Most Surprising City in New England."

But Ruberto said those two words to make a point. He believes that city residents will have to endure some sacrifice and pain over the next two years for Pittsfield to maintain the delicate balance of broadening its tax base with its quality of life. The city's current commercial tax rate of $27.31 per $1,000 of valuation is almost double the residential tax rate ($14.25).

"I think the discussion we're having right now over rezoning land for Unistress Corp. reflects the kind of pain that comes from balancing a broadening tax base with neighborhood concerns," Ruberto said on Friday during a wide-ranging interview in which he discussed the goals that he hopes to accomplish over the next two years.

Petricca Industries of Pittsfield has asked the city to rezone 15.6 acres of residential land within 500 feet of Partridge Road for light industrial use to provide more storage space for concrete products used by its Unistress subsidiary. Company President Perri C. Petricca said the company needs the additional space to expand.

Neighborhood resistance to the proposal has been fierce and mirrors the opposition that occurred when two other development initiatives proposed during Ruberto's tenure — time share condominiums at Ponterril and a hospice house on Williams Street — clashed with neighborhood interests.

A total of 23 people, mainly from the Partridge Road area, spoke against Petricca's request during a marathon three-hour City Council public hearing last week.

"What we have to do is focus on a greater good," Ruberto said. "We have to think as a community less about our own backyard and more about what the long-term benefits to the community are going to be with proposed changes.

"As a community, our mind-set has to reflect traditions of yesterday, but it has to become more open to the need — to the importance — of broadening our tax base in order to afford the services that we want so desperately to deliver as a community.

"We can't lose sight of our urbanism. We are a city, and cities have more burdens placed upon them and have a greater need for revenues than at least the surrounding towns do. And the press to broaden our tax base is more compelling than people can realize in their day-to-day living."

As the three priorities of his third term, Ruberto listed the continued development of the downtown North Street corridor, including the completion of the $21.6 million Beacon Cinema Center; physical improvements to those schools that need them; and housing.

Regarding the latter issue, Ruberto said he plans to work with state legislators to establish pilot programs containing the types of financial incentives that will allow first-time buyers to purchase homes in city neighborhoods.

He said allowing first-time buyers the ability to purchase their own homes is the key to cleaning up two of Pittsfield's poorest and most blighted areas, the West Side and Morningside neighborhoods.

"One of my hopes is that we can create integrated neighborhoods of working-class families, all of which share common values," Ruberto said. "We can begin to see those old neighborhoods become neighborly again."

Besides physical improvements to the public schools, specifically the three elementary and two high schools that were left out of the last large-scale project in the late 1990s, he said he wants to resolve the direction of high school education over the next two years.

A consulting firm's report on the possible consolidation of the two public high schools is expected to be completed by January, but Ruberto said the focus should be more on the services that the city can provide to its students 40 or 50 years from now rather than on in which building they should be housed.

In his acceptance speech, Ruberto said, "We need to address the issue of a technology-driven modern high school that our kids deserve."

Yesterday, Ruberto said a single building would best serve the needs of high school students, but that such a structure could contain a variety of academic, vocational and technical programs that serve everyone's needs.

Also during his acceptance speech, Ruberto said the city needed additional help from Secretary of State William Galvin's office to complete the Beacon Cinema Center on North Street. Asked to clarify those remarks yesterday, Ruberto said Galvin's office "holds the keys" to the city's ability to obtain the additional state historic tax credits that it needs to finish the job.

The city originally planned to begin construction on the cinema project last February, but the start of the project was delayed when the National Park Service had concerns regarding the planned alterations to the historic Kresge-Kinnell building. Inflation and construction costs also have caused the project's price tag to rise, Ruberto said.

In September, the cinema project's primary private investor, South County resident Richard Stanley, said construction could begin within six to eight months. Ruberto said plans now call for all six of the planned cinemas to have stadium-style seating instead of just two cinemas.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224

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The Boston Globe - Letters
Hills are alive with the sound of money
November 18, 2007

RE "ALIVE in the Hills" (Real Estate, Nov. 11): As a Berkshire County native and a social worker, I was troubled by your feature article on development in Pittsfield. This article shows what we already know about many out-of-town developers throughout Berkshire County: They have little concern for existing community.

This is most clearly demonstrated by the developer who thought that a Starbucks was just what Pittsfield needed. The Goodwill store that previously rented in the building she bought was an important asset to many Pittsfield residents for whom a $4 venti half-decaf vanilla macchiato will neither clothe their families nor furnish their homes. Coupled with the opening of new restaurants serving $30 entrees, it is clear that the needs of second-homeowners and tourists come before those of low-income residents.

Development is inevitable - and in some cases desirable - in the Berkshires, but this trend of exclusionary gentrification is concerning.

It saddens me that the Globe has painted a picture of a city devoid of life and where empty storefronts and drug-addled streets will be revived by the good graces of wealthy out-of-towners. Ask a local if they appreciate it, but do it quickly, before the locals are forced to move away.

CARRIE BURKE
Cambridge

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Jim Ruberto's job record lacking
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When I picked up the paper on Nov. 17, my heart went out to those from KB Toys who are facing an unknown future. I can only wish them the best. It then made me think about the job situation in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

At best, I would say it's bleak. Besides service industry jobs, there's not much of a job market, but that seems to be of little concern to Mayor Ruberto. Let's look at how the current mayor has done in regards to the job market:

The Pittsfield Fire/Police Telecommunicators have not had a contract in over 4 years. Remember people, these are the ones who field your 911 calls.

He gave a $1 million to the Colonial Theatre. I live in the city and can't afford to go there.

He gave Spice an 11-year tax break. That means that restaurant doesn't have to pay the city for any improvements made to its building for 11 years.

Mayor Ruberto now makes landlords with more than four apartments in a building pay for trash pick-up. Most of these landlords are only trying to make a little extra money. They are not Donald Trump.

So, as you can see, Mayor Ruberto has helped the elite and done nothing for the working class. He lists himself as a Democrat, but the way he hands out corporate welfare makes me wonder if he's trying to model his legacy after President Bush.

ALAN THOMAS
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield has sacrificed enough
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I read the front page article of Nov. 19 in which Mayor Ruberto calls on residents to make sacrifices. Am I missing something? When you open a modern dictionary and look up "sacrifice" you'll see the residents of the city of Pittsfield.

We have given up so much over the past years and sit with empty industrial areas and lingering pollution and no real plan to better this city other than changing farm land for concrete girder storage. I am one of many who have signed the petition against this rezoning.

Let's stop, take a breath and look at the land already designated industrial. Let's not ask neighborhoods for more sacrifices. Once this farm land is gone, it is gone forever.

We can grow smartly in Pittsfield if we just stop and think about it. Who is really gaining here in a city full of sacrifice already?

ALLISON WILLIAMS
Pittsfield

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News Article:
Sabic tax plan details new jobs, improvements
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, November 24, 2007

PITTSFIELD — For the first time since buying the plastics division of GE, Sabic Innovative Plastics officials have clearly defined the level of investment they plan for the global headquarters in Pittsfield through an application for a tax-increment financing agreement with the city.

According to a statement released by the mayor's office, Sabic IP plans on $10 million in building improvements, $50 million in personal property acquisitions within the next three years and the addition of 25 full-time permanent jobs in the next two years for a collective salary of $2 million.

Shortly after Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corp. purchased GE Plastics for $11.6 billion in May, company officials Mohamed H. Al-Mady, Sabic's vice chairman and CEO, and Brian T. Gladden, president and CEO of Sabic IP, insisted that the company's intention was not only to keep the global headquarters on Plastics Avenue but to reinvest in its facilities there and to expand the work force as needed.

Christopher Tessier, communications manager for Sabic IP, said the improvement plans are not contingent on whether the city approves the tax-increment financing plans.

"We are grateful that the city of Pittsfield has such a positive attitude for its citizens and the business community," he said. "The (Sabic) commitment to the city will remain as it has been in the past."

He added that he could not comment on whether there will be any effect to the plans if the agreement is not approved by the city.

"We're really just focused on getting to step two right now," Tessier said. "We'll have to see what happens next."

On Wednesday, Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto submitted the application to the City Council, which included a resolution for providing the creation of an "Economic Opportunity Area: Plastics" and the tax-increment financing plan.

The 10-year agreement would forgive 100 percent of the value of the property improvement in the first year, reduced by 20 percent each consecutive year for four more years and remaining at 10 percent for the last five years.

The agreement would allow Sabic Innovative Plastics to receive other manufacturing tax exemptions.

The actual amount of real estate taxes to be paid during the term of the agreement has not been determined because valuation of the property improvements cannot be set until the work is completed.

"We want to encourage businesses to come to Pittsfield and create jobs, and I believe tax incentives serve as an effective tool to accomplish those goals," said Ruberto in a written statement. "Sabic Innovative Plastics is bringing new life to Pittsfield, and the city continues to support them as an important member of our business community."

The proposal has been referred to the council's Finance Subcommittee, which is scheduled to meet Monday at 7:30 p.m.

------------------------------

City must keep school leaders
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, November 24, 2007

The issue with moving Joseph Curtis is bigger than transferring a young school administrator. It seems to follow a pattern. I have an elementary student at Williams and am concerned with the treatment of young administrators in our district.

Mr. Knappe wrote in his Nov. 22 letter to the editor "Come together for Conte School," that "Conte is paying the price because whoever hired the principal at Morningside did not do their job the right way." I remember an article in this newspaper two years ago, when my daughter was at Herberg, about Matthew Joseph, a Pittsfield graduate and, at the time, laptop initiative administrator, who was passed over for a job in Pittsfield. Joseph and Curtis were partners in bringing the laptop initiative here and I was impressed with both of them while my daughter was in the program.

The unfortunate ending to this story is that another district benefits from our young administrator. This city cannot afford to lose and mistreat our young administrators. Curtis is one of them. For the future of our district, let's not lose another young administrator.

MARC DODGE
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Partridge Road is part of a pattern
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Berkshire Eagle editors rarely stand up for Pittsfield's neighborhoods.

It was deeply involved with negotiations that allowed storage of PCBs at Hill 78 near an elementary school and the Allendale neighborhood. It also backed the civic authority that would have allowed a private board to take people's property for certain projects.

Now it is advocating the rezoning of a beautiful cornfield off Partridge Road to allow the storage of huge cement girders by Petricca Industries.

One has only to drive up Cheshire Road near Unistress to experience the dirt, noise and visual pollution that the rezoning would bring to our neighborhood.

Let's be clear about this. The storage area has nothing to do with the creation of new jobs, but it seems The Eagle believes we are expendable anyway.

A Nov. 16 editorial ended on an ominous note, indicating that there will be more of these conflicts in the future. Who knows what other neighborhoods The Eagle will consider expendable?

BARBARA J. TULLY
Pittsfield

The writer is a resident of Partridge Road.

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Rezoning should worry all residents
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, November 26, 2007

As residents of Partridge Road in Pittsfield we'd like to express our concern about the proposed zoning change requested by Petricca. Our concern is not only the changes that will occur in our neighborhood but for the future of other residential areas as well. This could possibly open the flood gates for rezoning throughout the city.

Mayor Ruberto is asking the residents of Partridge Road to make yet another sacrifice. You could be next. How many more residents of Pittsfield must sacrifice for the mayor to achieve his political goals?

From what we can gather, the benefit of rezoning would bring possibly 20 new jobs and convenience to Mr. Petricca. If hundreds of residents are opposed, how can a vote for the rezoning be justified? A vote for rezoning would send a message to the residents of Pittsfield that our opinions and wishes fall on deaf ears.

We respectfully ask the City Council to vote for the greater good. Please vote against the zoning change on Partridge Road.

LANNY AND APRIL ROSE
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Invest in a new Pittsfield stadium
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A letter writer in the Nov. 24 Eagle said The Eagle should stop complaining about the fact that we don't have a new stadium in Pittsfield, and should stop picking on "historic" Wahconah Park. On this point I agree with the Eagle. To put it plainly, Wahconah Park is a mosquito-ridden, waterlogged eyesore.

In the early '70s, my friends and I used to go to the park nearly every weekend, back when kids could walk to or from a football or Cubs game safely. The park was in rough shape then and has only gone downhill since.

City leaders want to spend money to pave the parking lot and make upgrades to things in the stadium itself, like new restrooms and a new baseball field. That will be great in late summer and fall, but unless you own a kayak or canoe you won't be able to get to the place in spring or early summer because of the flooding.

The mayor and City Council gave $1 million to the Colonial Theatre from the G.E. economic development fund. Why can't we pool all of the money they are wasting trying to revive a dead horse, kick in another million or more from the fund, and start the ball rolling toward what the city needs, which is a new multi-sport, outdoor event complex that all of the residents of the city, young and old, could use and enjoy?

JIM GLEASON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Explore alternatives for Petricca
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Several weeks ago when a fellow Partridge Road resident informed me that Mayor Ruberto would publicly back Petricca Industries' wishes for rezoning, my immediate thoughts were how negative this person is in his obvious contempt for our mayor. Needless to say, I was shocked and appalled when I read The Berkshire Eagle article of Nov. 19 in which the mayor publicly endorsed the rezoning of 15-plus pristine acres of farmland to light industrial for the storage of concrete slabs produced by Petricca's Unistress operation next to the Berkshire Mall.

With this endorsement, the Partridge Road cornfield will cease to exist, as the unsightly concrete forms will replace rows and rows of locally produced corn. One only needs to drive by the Berkshire Mall to see rows and rows of ugly concrete slabs presently violating the landscape.

With the hundreds of acres of vacant industrial land throughout the city, it would be a travesty to destroy more of the Berkshire landscape for the good of one. With the mayor so intent on building Petricca's success, the city should make available industrial land in the William Stanley Park complete with a railroad for immediate transportation of Petricca's ugly forms to anywhere in the country. An alternative for the city would be to purchase and lease to Petricca the 40-plus acres of industrial land next to the Berkshire Crossing. This certainly would not only satisfy Petricca's desire to acquire more space for his unsightly forms, but should satisfy the residents of Berkshire County as well.

A petition generated by concerned local citizens contains hundreds of signatures by residents of every ward in Pittsfield, in addition to residents of nearby towns, who are vehemently opposed to the destruction of more residential property when so many industrial zoned properties are available for immediate use. With this petition, residents with Internet service are asked to sign on to www.youtube.com/profile?user=partridgegroup for additional information concerning the rezoning.

I urge the residents of Pittsfield to attend the City Council meeting (tonight at 7:30 p.m.) in the second floor council chambers to voice your opposition to this rezoning. A simple message to the council stating: I oppose this rezoning, should suffice.

ROBERT J. O'CONNOR
Pittsfield

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A good location for Hill 78
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Seventy-eight into 26. No, it's not new math, just a simple solution for two problems. Take Hill 78 and truck it to the extension of Runway 26.

If, according to the article on the front page of the Nov. 11 Eagle titled "State: Hill 78 poses No risk," it shouldn't be a problem filling in the swamp at the end of the runway. If it does pose a problem for the swamp creatures, there's the membrane liner that was to be used in Silver Lake. Would that work as a base to put the fill on? The fill for the runway has to be paid for and brought in from somewhere, so why not use what GE left us and have it delivered at their expense?

What is more important, the health and well-being of the taxpaying residents around Hill 78 or the swamp dwellers? If the state says there's no problem, let the excuses begin why this can't happen.

JOHN CARTER
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Petricca postponement smells fishy
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, November 30, 2007

What in the world is going on at City Hall? In the Berkshire Eagle on Tuesday there was an announcement that stated "the rescheduling (of the Petricca Inc. rezoning request on Partridge Road) was done at the request of . . . Councilor Maffuccio who will be unable to attend tonight's meeting, said Council President Gerald M. Lee." Yet at the council meeting Tuesday night, we learned that a council meeting cannot be postponed unless and until the council votes to postpone it! Who put the cart before the horse?

We heard that this idea to postpone came late Monday night, yet according to the postponement article in The Eagle, "Petricca Development has also agreed to continue the public hearing until Dec. 5." Who decides if a public hearing is postponed? President Lee? Petricca Development? Or is it the city councilors? How could this postponement have happened if the city councilors hadn't voted on it yet?

Most importantly, why? Many people were energized to attend and watch this meeting.

Something is fishy about how this re-zoning request is being handled, and that fish is starting to stink!

LYNN N. MUTLU
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

The writer is a resident of Partridge Road.

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Thriving Petricca doesn't need land
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, December 03, 2007

Congratulations to Petricca Industries in securing the $4.5 million tax-exempt bond incentive for its Unistress growth. This was a team effort with great help and support from the city of Pittsfield and Mass. Development. You'd think Mr. Petricca would be baking a cake for the city of Pittsfield to celebrate and thank everyone, but instead he is intent on taking even more — the 15-acre cornfield on upper Partridge Road and rezoning it for storage of those unsightly concrete blocks.

I am concerned about how that field will look and the loss of open farm land. Surely, this is a small cog in the big wheel of his development. I urge our city councilors to listen to the people from all over the city and not allow the rezoning.

CATHERINE KUPY
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Bad for land, bad for city
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, December 03, 2007

If Petricca Industries has to terrace the hill on the 15 acres on Partridge Road proposed for rezoning, a lot of land would have to be taken away to create the necessary shape for terracing. This sounds like a bad idea for this wonderful sloping farm land and I feel even more strongly opposed now.

I was happy to sign the petition against the rezoning when someone knocked on my door, and I have offered to collect signatures too. If you oppose this rezoning, please contact at me at (413) 445-7512 to sign the petition.

Also, please come to Wednesday's City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Just having you there will show the mayor and the councilors that this rezoning is bad for that land and bad for the city.

CHRISTOPHER ATWOOD
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield board's double standard
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Months ago, Mayor Ruberto announced his unqualified support for the Partridge Road rezoning change, long before it went before his appointees on the Community Development Board, which rubber-stamped it by unanimous vote and sent it to the City Council.

I guess the Board decided that losing one of the best cornfields in Pittsfield and 30 jobs so concrete beams could be stored in the field with no employees on the site contributes more of the "greater good" (as that term is used by our mayor) that the building of the new CVS which was proposed but turned down.

Did the Board miss the fact that putting union employees and local contractors to work building this proposed pharmacy would have generated full-time construction jobs and full-time jobs for local residents working in the store after it was finished? Maybe our 30 displaced farm workers could have found jobs there.

This requested zoning change should be voted down.

JOSEPH R. BURKE
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Corn field better than eyesore
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Unistress, located on the Route 8 gateway to Pittsfield, has almost no screening. Monstrous cement girders and other pre-stressed concrete forms are stored in plain view of those entering and leaving the city. Dust and dirt frequently billow across the Unistress property and the adjacent highway. Now Petricca Development is asking to have the cornfield that is located in the Partridge Road neighborhood rezoned so it can store more beams there.

In contrast is Dailey's concrete storage yard in Shaftsbury, Vermont. This company has completely screened hundreds of cement girders from view, and its storage yard is not located near people's homes. Furthermore, if the City Council grants the rezoning request it means the end of the Partridge Road farm that grows some of the best corn in the state.

GENE MORGAN
MARGE MORGAN
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Rezoning plan is a citywide issue
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The proposed zoning change that Petricca Industries is requesting is surely not a neighborhood matter since it speaks to quality of life issues that are of concern to us all. Petricca is asking for this zoning change so that he may turn productive agricultural lands, which are enjoyed by many, into a dust bowl for his own advantage.

I ask people who are concerned about the future of this city to urge Petricca Industries to seek an Agricultural Preservation Restriction on these lands in exchange for which they would receive just compensation from the Department of Agriculture.

ROBERT J. TOTH
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Zoning meeting set: Petricca proposal is on agenda for tonight"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, December 05, 2007

PITTSFIELD — After hearings before two boards and debate in the land of public opinion, a decision regarding Petricca Development's controversial rezoning proposal could be reached at tonight's special City Council meeting.

When the council meets at 7:30, it will reopen the public hearing on the proposed zoning change that it began on Nov. 13.

Following discussion, Council President Gerald M. Lee said he expects the measure to be put to a vote. According to state law, approval of rezoning proposals requires a two-thirds majority vote by the presiding legislative body. That means that eight of the council's 11 members would be required to approve the measure.

Here comes the tricky part.

If the measure receives eight yes votes, the council probably will continue the matter to consider a second and final reading at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 11. The city code requires the council to approve two readings of any rezoning proposal.

However, if the rezoning proposal receives fewer than eight affirmative votes tonight, it is done. "If it fails," Lee said yesterday, "it's over."

"I can't imagine why we wouldn't vote," said Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi, who believed that the council should have voted last week instead of scheduling the special meeting. "I think this has to be resolved. This has to be voted on eventually. We just can't put it off."

Petricca Development has asked the city to rezone 15.6 acres of land it owns within 500 feet of Partridge Road from residential to light industrial use to provide more storage space for prestressed concrete products manufactured by its Unistress subsidiary. The parcel in question is currently used to grow corn.

Petricca has offered to create buffer and no-build zones and to place a state agricultural restriction on an adjacent 40-acre parcel, but the measure has been fiercely opposed, particularly by members of a neighborhood association that consists mainly of Partridge Road residents.

Company President Perri Petricca said he hopes that the council will have heard enough about both the project and the neighborhood's concerns that it can approve the rezoning and allow the firm to apply to the Community Development Board for special permits.

However, Petricca said that he is very concerned that information coming out of discussions with the Partridge Road residents has been distorted to the point that it doesn't reflect his company's proposal.

"As more people get involved, things get blown out of proportion," he said.

Resistance to the proposal appears to be spreading across the city, particularly in the wake of last week's events.

The council originally had voted to continue the Nov. 13 public hearing to its regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 27. But the night before that meeting took place, a written announcement stated that the council planned on holding the public hearing at the request of Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio, who could not attend the following day. Maffuccio, who was out of town, said later he never asked for the public hearing to be continued.

Despite the announcement, the council could not continue the public hearing until tonight without voting on Nov. 27. But Timothy Sullivan, one of the Partridge Road Association's three officers, said yesterday that the announcement made it appear that "somebody outside the public has their hand on the steering wheel here."

Mayor James M. Ruberto last month referred to the rezoning proposal as a measure that reflects the kind of pain that comes from balancing a broadening tax base with neighborhood concerns.

"You can't imagine the gasoline (the mayor's statements) poured on the fire," Sullivan said. He said the opponents have interpreted Ruberto's words to mean "You've got to be the point man on this, pal. It's a reaction to being used as a sacrificial lamb so that someone else can make a profit."

A poll conducted by Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward on his Web site last week revealed that 34 of the 68 respondents within his district were opposed to the rezoning proposal, while 22 were in favor. The remaining 12 respondents said they were not sure. Ward said that 240 members of Ward 4 subscribe to his Web site.

The opinions he received include examining the proposal from economic development, environmental and agricultural viewpoints, he said.

"I usually do these polls to instigate conversation," Ward said. "And it always works."

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Zoning change clears hurdle: Petricca plan controversial"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, December 06, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Following four hours of discussion in a special meeting last night, the City Council voted 8-3 in favor of a first reading of Petricca Development's controversial rezoning proposal.

The first reading required eight affirmative votes for approval by the 11-member council because state law requires zoning changes to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the presiding legislative body.

The council is expected to consider a second and final reading at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Council President Gerald M. Lee, and fellow councilors Louis A. Costi, Peter M. Marchetti, Anthony V. Maffuccio, Matthew M. Kerwood, Michael L. Ward, Linda M. Tyer and Tricia Farley-Bouvier voted in favor of the first reading. Jonathan N. Lothrop, Daniel L. Bianchi and Lewis C. Markham Jr. were opposed.

The special meeting, the continuation of a public hearing that began on Nov. 13, contained two hours of public comment. The councilors then discussed the measure for more than 90 minutes. Several councilors asked City Attorney Richard L. Dohoney for assistance. A standing-room only crowd that spilled out into the hallways attended the hearing.

Petricca has proposed rezoning a 15.6 acre parcel within 500 feet of Partridge Road from residential to light industrial use to provide additional storage space for prestressed concrete products manufactured by its Unistress subsidiary. The land is currently used as a cornfield.

The proposal has been fiercely opposed by a neighborhood group consisting mainly of Partridge Road residents. The resistance appears to have spread throughout the city, especially after the council last week voted to continue the public hearing to last night from Nov. 27, when it was originally scheduled to be re-opened.

Carolyn DiCarlo, of Partridge Road, told the council last night that she had a petition that contained the names of 1,214 residents from across the city who were opposed to the proposal.

Bianchi said he couldn't support the measure because he believed a 'yes' vote went against the council's ability to protect the city's neighborhoods.

"I don't think that we can't make light of the fact that if we do this here it will happen in other areas of the city," Bianchi said. "That's the message that I'm getting back from my constituents."

Tyer, who said she would support the proposal, believed that saying 'no' was not the only way to protect a city neighborhood.

"I think we have to come to a compromise that protects all of the shareholders," Tyer said. "That's what we do here and that's what we were elected to do."

Before the council debated the issue, 39 people spoke during the two-hour public comment period. They included numerous residents of the Partridge Road area, and several employees of Unistress Corp. Company President Perri C. Petricca and the firm's general counsel, Michael MacDonald, also spoke.

Petricca presented the council with a new proposal outlining procedures, such as buffer and no-build zones, and the creation of an agricultural conservation restriction, to allay the neighbor's fears.

"I've listened to the issues they've raised," Petricca said, referring to city residents. "We've tried to address their concerns. The people of Partridge Road don't want this in their backyards. If I could address all the issues I would. I can't."

Several residents urged the council to turn down the proposal.

"We, the people of Partridge Road, are not willing to let this happen," said Paul Hitchcock of 60 Partridge Road. "Placing a storage area on Partridge Road is akin to placing a junkyard next to the Colonial Theatre."

The Unistress employees urged the council to approve the measure in order to save their jobs.

"Corn don't pay my bills," said Joe Holloway of 55 Stoddard Ave., who moved from Albany, N.Y., to Pittsfield 16 years ago. "The job pays my bills."

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"AIDS coalition to hold vigil"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, December 01, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire AIDS Coalition will hold a vigil tonight on behalf of World AIDS Day, which has been held annually on Dec. 1 since 1988.

The vigil takes place at 7 p.m., at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at 67 East St..

World AIDS Day provides governments, national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations and individuals with an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the disease.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that 35.2 million people are currently living with AIDS worldwide, and that the illness has killed 2.1 million people this year. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people worldwide since it was first diagnosed in 1981.

Mayor James M. Ruberto this week issued a proclamation declaring today "World AIDS Day in Pittsfield." Citing numbers compiled by the Berkshire AIDS Coalition, he said there are currently 85 known cases of AIDS in Berkshire County, including 43 in Pittsfield.

"I lived in San Francisco for 10 years and saw some very good friends pass away," Ruberto said. "The more we can do to recognize this disease will make us a better as a community."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224.

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"A perspective on Morningside School"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, December 07, 2007

With the negativity that has surrounded recent occurrences at our school, we feel it is time to finally give an insiders' perspective of reality at Morningside Community School.

Let us begin by saying that the current situation at Morningside cannot be attributed to any one person, but rather to the instability the school has faced over the past several years. Morningside has seen not one, not two, but three principals over the past five years, as well as many staffing changes. For this reason, to place blame on any single person would not only be inaccurate, but also inappropriate.

That said, the focus of the hard-working Morningside staff and administration is, as always, directed toward the future successes of our students. This year, we have begun several initiatives to boost our student achievement, including new reading programs and welcoming new coaches in the departments of Reading, English Language Arts and Math. The addition of Joe Curtis as our co-principal is one of many actions that are being taken to ensure the success of our students, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our corridors.

At Morningside Community School we have always felt that our students have the ability to succeed. Together as a team, and with the support of our community, we can and will make this success a reality.

EILEEN MOYNIHAN, SUSAN BARNES, EMILY MILLER
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

The letter was signed by 28 faculty and staff members at Morningside Community School.

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"Challenge of Petricca plan ruled invalid"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, December 07, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The most disputed piece of land in Pittsfield lay peacefully under a blanket of snow yesterday, ignorant of the controversy swirling around it.

Following a four-hour hearing Wednesday night, the City Council voted 8-3 in favor of a first reading of Petricca Development's controversial proposal to rezone the 15.6-acre parcel near Partridge Road from residential to light-industrial use.

Petricca requested the zoning change to provide more storage space for prestressed concrete products manufactured by its Unistress subsidiary. If the council approves a second and final reading on Tuesday, the land's current use as a cornfield on Partridge Road most likely will disappear.

Partridge Road residents filed a written protest against the rezoning proposal earlier Wednesday, claiming that the measure violated state zoning laws.

The protest, signed by Raymond J. and Theresa C. Costello and Timothy J. and Pamela Sullivan, attempted to require nine votes — instead of eight — to approve the zoning change.

To file such a protest, the petitioners must own at least 20 percent of the land that is intended to be rezoned, or adjacent property that extends 300 feet from the affected parcel.

City Attorney Richard M. Dohoney, who addressed the matter during the public hearing, said the protest does not apply because neither family meets the land-owning requirements under state law.

Neither family owns any of the land targeted for rezoning, nor are their properties adjacent to the parcel, Dohoney said. The land is owned entirely by Petricca.

According to Dohoney, the Costello land is separated from Petricca's property by a 40-foot buffer that is used by the nearby Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction. The Sullivan property is separated from the Petricca land by a 20-foot buffer zone, he said.

Timothy Sullivan, who is an attorney, said yesterday, "The land to be rezoned hasn't been surveyed. It's only been delineated by a highlighter. It's just a line shown by a magic marker. That's what was given to the council." He said the boundaries consist of lines drawn on a 10-year-old map.

According to a memo from City Planner Lisa Haynes to Dohoney, the city performed a manual calculation Wednesday of the total land area that extends 300 feet around the disputed property and described the protest as "invalid."

If the council approves the second reading next week, the families' written protest could be used as grounds for appeal to a state court.

"All we're doing is preserving our rights," Sullivan said. "State law says to (file the protest) before a final vote of the council."

He added: "It's one of the areas of appeal along with all the other areas that the law gives us. (Dohoney) knows, I know, and everyone else in the room knows that these areas are all like prescription glasses — everyone is different."

Do the families plan on filing an appeal?

"We've got three weeks from next Tuesday to do it," Sullivan said. "Who knows what's going to happen."

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"A good vote for the city"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, December 07, 2007

The Pittsfield City Council acted in the best interests of the city Tuesday night in approving a rezoning request made by Petricca Development for a 15.6 acre parcel of land near Partridge Road. Petricca has responded to the concerns of neighbors with proposals for buffers and no-build zones and establishment of an agricultural conservation restriction, and while this rezoning was never going to result in a win-win situation, the developer has successfully sought a fair middle ground.

In these litigious times this obviously won't be the end of the story, even if the City Council approves the second reading of the rezoning next week by the same 8-3 vote in favor. One protest has already been lodged and it is safe to say there will be others.

The City Council's vote came after a public hearing in which opponents of the plan to rezone the parcel from residential to light industrial made their arguments and occasionally snickered and muttered when employees of the Unistress subsidiary that manufactures the prestressed concrete products to be stored there spoke in favor of the rezoning. While a couple of the council's proponents of the rezoning were needlessly apologetic about their votes, Ward 3's Linda Tyer observed pointedly that the city has to move beyond the concept that the only way to protect the city's neighborhoods is to say "no" to whatever comes along. It's the job of city officials to find ways to get to "yes" that accommodate everyone's interests to the greatest extent possible.

The City Council accomplished this Tuesday night and there is no reason to believe that this vote will ignite a rezoning frenzy in the city. In this very specific instance, city councilors approved a rezoning that will benefit a successful and growing city business, a business that can be counted on to do its best to address the concerns of neighbors.

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"Council will hear from public on tax rates"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, December 09, 2007

PITTSFIELD — As part of its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the City Council will hold a public hearing to discuss the city's proposed fiscal 2008 residential and commercial tax rates.

According to information supplied by the city treasurer's office, the proposed residential tax rate is $13.15 per $1,000 of valuation for fiscal 2008, a decrease of $1.10 from the previous fiscal year.

Because of the recent valuation of city property, the value of the average single family home in Pittsfield has increased 13.41 percent in fiscal 2008, or $22,400, from $167,100 to $189,500.

And because the drop in the residential tax rate corresponds with an increase in value, the average single-family homeowner's tax bill will increase 4.64 percent in fiscal 2008, from $2,381.18 to $2,491.77, an increase of $110.59.

The mortgage rate problems that have affected the national real estate market are not reflected in the city's fiscal 2008 residential tax proposal because the date of assessment is Jan. 1, 2007.

"Why that is important is that the data used is based on fiscal 2006 data," City Treasurer G. Richard Bordeau said. "To do an analysis, you have to look at 2006 market activity."

The city's proposed commercial and industrial tax rate is $28.35 per $1,000 of valuation, an increase of $1.04 from fiscal 2007. The value of the average commercial or industrial property has decreased by 1.2 percent, or $6,800, to $555,800 in fiscal 2008.

"The commercial and industrial rates have, for the most part, been flat in terms of depreciation," Bordeau said.

The proposed average commercial/industrial tax bill is $15,758.71, an increase of 5.1 percent from the previous fiscal year.

Pittsfield's tax levy limit has increased 4.6 percent, or $2.1 million, to $55.6 million in fiscal 2008. However, that figure is roughly $5.4 million under the $61.1 million tax levy limit for Pittsfield that is set by the state.

Under Proposition 21/2, the city cannot raise taxes above the state-certified $61.1 million barrier unless city residents approve an override.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224

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"Council adopts new tax rate"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Following a public hearing last night, the City Council voted 10-0 to approve fiscal 2008 residential and commercial tax rate proposals that were compiled by the Board of Assessors office.

On the advice of the state Ethics Commission, Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi abstained from the voting.

Due to a drop in the residential tax rate and a corresponding increase in value, the average single family homeowner's property tax bill will increase 4.64 percent, or $110.59, in fiscal 2008 — from $2,381.18 to $2,491.77.

The residential tax rate is $13.15 per $1,000 of valuation, a decrease of $1.10 from the previous fiscal year. However, the value of the average single family home has increased 13.4 percent, or $22,400, to $189,500 due to the recent valuation of city property.

Property values are based on fiscal 2006 data because the date of assessment for the current fiscal year is Jan. 1, 2007.

The council also approved a fiscal 2008 tax rate for commercial and industrial property of $28.35 per $1,000 of valuation, an increase of $1.04 from fiscal 2007.

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"Zoning issue key to growth: Company pins its hopes on a proposal that has drawn residents' ire"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, December 09, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Judging by both his public and written comments, Unistress Corp. President Perri C. Petricca understands the concerns expressed by the city residents who are opposed to his firm's controversial rezoning proposal on Partridge Road.

But Petricca also has said that the firm's development entity, Petricca Development LLC, must rezone the 15.6 parcel that it owns from residential to light-industrial use for Unistress to expand its storage capacity.

Petricca Development, a family-owned limited liability company, will lease the land, which sits within 500 feet of some Partridge Road residents, to Unistress, a wholly owned subsidiary of Petricca Industries Inc., which was founded in 1968.

The City Council is scheduled to consider a second reading of the rezoning proposal on Tuesday. If the proposal is approved, and his company obtains the proper special permits from the Community Development Board, Petricca said Unistress will be able to add an additional 20 jobs.

Unistress, which needs the space for the prestressed concrete products that it manufactures, also is expected to add 19 more jobs when its 22,400-square-foot metal fabrication plant on 34 Laurel St. is completed in January. The company is growing so rapidly that Petricca said another 20 jobs have been added since the firm first filed its rezoning proposal with the city this summer.

Storage near production

With its new metal fabrication facility almost completed, Petricca said Unistress will not completely move out of Pittsfield, as some have feared, if the council rejects the rezoning proposal. But he said Unistress would have to move some of its planned manufacturing expansion out of Pittsfield, possibly one of its three concrete beam production facilities and its adjacent storage space.

"We haven't really thought that through," Petricca said.

"The production and (storage) have to be done side by side," he said. "When that product comes out of the plant, it's not finished."

During the public hearing, several of those opposed to the rezoning proposal asked why Petricca cannot use the virtually empty former General Electric Co. property where the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires is located for its additional storage space.

Petricca said that Unistress could use the former GE property "temporarily," but that increasing its storage capacity in an area where those products are already being stored would be better for the company in the long run.

He said that the company does not need special permits or police escorts to transport finished prestressed concrete products across Cheshire Road from its plant to its current storage facility, but would need all of those protections to transport those products a few miles to the former GE site.

"When we were moving products for the Big Dig, it cost us $1,500 per piece" in special permits and escorts, Petricca said. "We had thousands of pieces. ... If we had to move to GE, we'd have to have the same pieces in place."

Moving part of the business out of Pittsfield may not be the most enviable situation for Unistress, the state's lone remaining prestressed concrete manufacturer, and the largest of the four that still exist in New England, but Petricca said it can be done.

"Plenty of manufacturing plants operate in two different places," he said.

Key vote on Tuesday

Following the continuation of a marathon seven-hour public hearing that began Nov. 13 and ended Dec. 5, the City Council last week voted 8-3 in favor of a first reading of the proposal. The measure required eight affirmative votes from the 11-member council because state law requires that rezoning be approved by a two-thirds majority of the presiding legislative body.

City Attorney Richard M. Dohoney said he believes that the council also is required to approve the second reading by a two-thirds majority. However, a second reading is required by the city code, not the state, and Dohoney said there is no case law to back his assumption.

"It's been a long tradition in the city" that second readings of rezoning issues require approval by a "super majority" of eight votes, said Council President Gerald M. Lee. "I would hope the vote stays the same way."

The last time the council was faced with a fairly similar issue — approval of the so-called resort development bylaw that would allow time-share condominiums to be built in some residential areas — it approved an amended version of the original ordinance on the first reading, then voted to file the entire measure on the second reading, a move that killed the proposal.

Could that scenario be repeated Tuesday night?

"Who knows," Lee said. "It's a possibility. It's a possibility that a person who was in attendance is not in attendance. That gives us seven votes. It also could happen that someone changes their mind. It's not a done deal."

The council originally was scheduled to continue the Nov. 13 public hearing at its regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 27. However, the night before that meeting took place, Lee said he would ask the council to continue the hearing to a special meeting on Dec. 5 because Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio would be unable to attend.

Maffuccio later said that he had not asked for a continuance. The council approved Lee's request, but the measure generated more controversy from some opponents who wanted the council to vote on a first reading that night, even though one of its members was absent.

"I believe the petitioner has the right to have all 11 councilors vote on it," Lee said yesterday. "When Maffuccio was absent, I tried to do that."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224

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"Council OKs zoning change: The Pittsfield vote moves Unistress closer to expanding its storage facility, despite concerns by neighbors"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night voted 10-1 in favor of a second and final reading of Petricca Development LLC's controversial rezoning proposal, an action that officially changes a company-owned 15.6-acre parcel off Partridge Road from residential to light industrial.

The measure required eight affirmative votes because state law requires zoning changes to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the presiding legislative body. The council voted 8-3 in favor of a first reading last week. The city code requires the council to approve two readings of any zoning change.

Of the three councilors who voted against the measure last week, only Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi voted no last night. The two other members who were previously opposed, Ward 1 Councilor Lewis C. Markham Jr. and Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, joined their eight other colleagues in casting affirmative votes.

Unistress Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Petricca Industries Inc. of Pittsfield, had asked the city to rezone the parcel to provide more storage space for the large prestressed concrete components that it manufactures for bridges, parking garages, stadiums and railway stations. Unistress President and CEO Perri C. Petricca said the rezoning will allow the firm to create 20 new jobs because it will be able to expand its business.

Petricca Development is Petricca Industries' development group and will lease the land to Unistress.

The vote came following last-minute negotiations between Perri Petricca and members of the Partridge Road Group Inc., a neighborhood association that led the fierce opposition to the rezoning proposal.

Both Petricca and Partridge Road group member Raymond Costello announced during the public comment period that they had reached an agreement in principle on the differences that had divided them.

According to Costello, the negotiations began Saturday and did not end until 10 minutes before the start of last night's meeting. A portion of the parcel has been used as a cornfield, and Costello said that the two parties reached an agreement that the cornfield will remain in the same state as it was this past summer.

"That's key," Costello told the council. "I spoke to nine of the 10 principals in the Partridge Road group. Of the comments that I gave to them, nine out of 10 said they could live with that."

Petricca said that he had agreed to extend a state agricultural conservation restriction that he had already proposed for part of the parcel by an additional three to four acres to preserve the entire cornfield.

"The only remaining issue that we have is the screening," Petricca said.

Following the vote, Costello said the two sides will continue to negotiate.

"By no stretch of the imagination is this over with," Costello said. "The conservation restriction still needs to be ironed out."

Petricca said that he hoped the two sides would be able to resolve all their differences before Petricca Development applies to the Community Development Board for special permits associated with the use of the newly rezoned parcel.

In previous meetings, Petricca had said that he would maintain the same protections on the Partridge Road parcel that Unistress installed on an adjoining 56.5-acre plot when that land was rezoned from residential to light industrial use in May 1997. Those eight safeguards included a series of buffers, berms and no-build zones and the creation of a state Agricultural Preservation Restriction for part of the land.

Last night's decision caps a contentious process that included meetings before two boards, and a seven-hour public hearing spread over two meetings in November and December. The rescheduling of the public hearing's original continuation date created opposition to the proposal that spread across the city.

"It's not one of our finest hours by any means," Markham said. "But we did get here."

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Westfield State College
"Dobelle answers the call: Former mayor of Pittsfield will become the 19th president of the state college in Westfield"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, December 14, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Former Mayor Evan S. Dobelle has been selected to serve as the 19th president of Westfield State College.

Westfield officials are scheduled to present Dobelle's name in January to the state Board of Higher Education for final approval.

Resides in Pittsfield

Dobelle, 62, served as mayor from 1973 to 1976 and lives in Pittsfield today. He currently holds the positions of president and chief executive officer of the New England Board of Higher Education.

He will succeed Westfield's former president, Vicky L. Carwein, and current interim president, Barry Maloney.

"We all have callings in life, and the best calling for me is as a college president," Dobelle told The Eagle in a phone interview yesterday.

But this may be an eyebrow-raising statement for some people who may recall Dobelle's most recent tenure as president of the University of Hawaii.

In 2004, that institution's Board of Regents initially fired him "for cause," accusing Dobelle of being a liar and of misusing university funds and questioning his leadership ability. Dobelle repeatedly denied the allegations.

Later, the university reversed the firing decision, clearing Dobelle of any wrongdoing. He then resigned, receiving cash and other benefits totaling more than $1.8 million from the university.

The final word

Dobelle said these events should have no bearing on his appointment to Westfield State.

"The mediation in Hawaii stipulated that none of it is true. Absolutely none of it is true," he said.

Both he and Westfield State spokesman Tim Murphy noted the thorough selection process for the presidential position, which included multiple interviews, candidate research, and open campus forums.

Chairman Thomas J. Foley of the college's board of trustees, who is also a former colonel and superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, told The Republican newspaper of Springfield that he will be in charge of a full background check on Dobelle.

Murphy added that it is standard procedure of state institutions to have the state police conduct a full background check with any appointed official.

"I've always found him to be open and accessible and willing to share counsel on a variety of matters," said Mayor James M. Ruberto, a friend of Dobelle's.

"I think it's a wonderful choice and an excellent choice for Westfield," Ruberto said.

Dobelle said that, at the end of the day, he has "nothing but aloha for Hawaii. I have nothing but aloha for the people at the university as a whole."

Controversy aside, Dobelle seems to be well-liked and well suited for the presidential position. He is expected to take his seat by the start of the spring semester.

Besides his work with the New England Board of Higher Education, he will bring 20 years of higher education experience to Westfield, having served also as president of Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, of City College of San Francisco and of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

As Pittsfield's mayor, Dobelle left during his second term to accept an appointment from then Gov. Michael S. Dukakis as state secretary of environmental management. Dobelle also has served as treasurer and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, among other political positions.

"I can't think of a better fit. Dr. Dobelle is extremely experienced in higher education, and he connects with (students) so effectively," Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. said

Dobelle said he will continue living in Pittsfield and hopes to be an advocate for colleges in Western Massachusetts and initiatives of the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education.

"Westfield's not part of the compact formally, but I have great admiration for Mary (Grant) and Paul (Raverta)," referring to compact leaders and the presidents of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Berkshire Community College, respectively.

"I'm going to try to be enthusiastic with any assistance I can give to them," Dobelle said.

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"Zoning change bad for residents"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, December 15, 2007

In my opinion light industrial and residential zoning are not compatible.

For twenty years I have lived in the center of Dalton, on the road that Petricca uses to haul sand from the gravel beds at the back of our residential area. Every year I have to repair cracks in my plaster and sheet-rock walls because the road was not built for this type of hauling.

Lesson: light industrial zoning reduces the quality of life for residential neighbors. In this case, if Pittsfield is sincere about encouraging tourism, it should think twice about changing a beautiful road into concrete storage. Visitors will think they made a wrong turn and are going past Elizabeth, New Jersey.

NANCY GRAHAM
Dalton, Massachusetts

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Source: "Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Campaign 2001"
Go to: extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/profiles/10.htm
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James M. Ruberto in 2001.
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"Ruberto, back in hometown, touts his management skills"
By Bill Carey, Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD -- All this talk about running Pittsfield like a business could be a self-fulfilling prophesy.James M. "Jimmy" Ruberto, one of the handful of mayoral candidates with corporate credentials, proposes to do just that.

Ruberto is a veteran plastics industry executive who, at 54, hesitates to use the word "retired" in describing his present situation.

Citizen shareholders

He comes equipped with what he calls a "skill set" of management tools, having run large organizations with budgets bigger than Pittsfield's. The city he foresees would be a municipal enterprise in which citizens are both shareholders and customers who hold their leaders strictly accountable.

A parachute of sorts brought him back to his hometown. Ruberto says he was running the plastic films division of Dallas-based Rexene Corp. when the company was targeted for acquisition by Huntsman Corp. of Salt Lake City, the nation's largest privately held chemical company. Rexene's management resisted the overture.

It was a hostile takeover, "which we fought for 12 months," he said. "In fact, I left my position as president of the films division to become what at that point was executive vice president of administration, and I was overseeing stockholder relations."

The companies forged a merger agreement in June 1997. That August, following approval of the agreement by Rexene shareholders, Huntsman announced its purchase of the company for $600 million. Rexene's management had shown "the highest degree of integrity" during the three months it took to complete the transaction, said Chairman and CEO Jon M. Huntsman.

In business, as in politics, previous administrations are encouraged to move on when a new order arrives.

"When we were taken over in 1997, as a member of the [Rexene] executive management team, I had control of my own future and I chose then to leave, as did five of the seven members of the executive management team," Ruberto recalled.

"The benefits of that really enabled me to view differently how I want to live the rest of my life," he said, in reference to his financial takeaway.

"I'm not rich I don't want to come across as appearing snobbish," he emphasizes.

This wasn't an express lane to the nearest golf course. Ruberto set to work for the next year on his doctoral dissertation: "The Business of Big League Baseball, Marketing The Sport Experience." He expects to receive a doctorate in business administration this fall from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

In late 1998, he returned to manage the flexible packaging division of the new Huntsman Packaging Corp. in Dallas, serving for two years. He said he consulted for Huntsman Packaging from January to March of this year, and for two other companies from March to June. He has been running full-time for mayor since July.

Graduate of St. Joseph's

Ruberto is a 1964 graduate of St. Joseph's High School. He and his wife of 32 years, Ellen, were high school classmates who regularly returned to Pittsfield to visit. Ruberto's name is firmly rooted here. His father was a Republican party activist who served as chairman of the licensing board under three mayors. His late brother, Anthony J. Ruberto Jr., was a widely respected district attorney and district court judge.

He has the backing of longtime Democratic Party stalwart Remo Del Gallo, who served as mayor from 1965 to 1967. But there is no "Del Gallo machine," Ruberto says.

"Mayor Del Gallo has been a close friend of the Ruberto families for a number of years and I'm proud to say I have his support," he declared. "I don't see a 'machine' at all. What I see for myself is a very respected person who has a love for Pittsfield and an interest in making this city better."

Even with friends like this, Ruberto has been compelled to explain his whereabouts for the past 30 years and to pledge his allegiance to Pittsfield. He pointed out that he owns his home and was planning to come back anyway.

"It's my boyhood home," he said of the dwelling on Spadina Parkway. "We maintained the house because I always intended to come back. I actually own a condominium in Lenox as well, which we rent out. So, one way or another, we were going to come back."

There is no leather or mahogany to be found in his current office; Ruberto's campaign headquarters is a former shoe shop on North Street. Noteworthy is a miniature parquet basketball court in the rear of the shop that apparently served as a prop for athletic footwear.

The former business executive, comfortably attired in blue Polo dress shirt, white khaki pants and matching sneakers, works from a cafeteria-style table in the middle of the cavernous space. On the table's surface is a telephone, a laptop computer and a mess of papers; on the floor, balled-up papers and a radio plugged into the wall.

In a corner behind him, water drips methodically from the ceiling into a plastic garbage can, offering a tempting metaphor of the city Ruberto hopes to lead.

While it will be a challenge to repair Pittsfield, he said he is not discouraged.

"The situation today in Pittsfield is difficult," Ruberto acknowledged. "It's difficult because we have to make sure that we're going to work hard and set good priorities for how we spend our money, and that invites its own level of tension. But to look at that and to not see that as an opportunity for bringing people together would be a mistake."

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Jim Ruberto

Candidate for: Mayor

Address: 85 Spadina Parkway, Pittsfield

Age: 54 (2001)

Family status: Married.

Education: B.S.; M.B.A; doctorate of business administration

Profession: Business executive

Volunteer activities: Board of Directors, Dallas, Texas, Boys & Girls Club; Little League coach; director of inner-city tutoring program

Hobbies: Golf, sports fan, reading

Last book read: "American Pharaoh: Mayor J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago & The Nation" by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor

Biggest challenge for Pittsfield: "Pittsfield's biggest challenge is to find common ground for a better future. The city is at a crossroads. On one hand, our quality of life is challenged. On the other hand, some important building blocks are in place that could be a strong foundation for our community. Pittsfield needs to unite for the good of its future. The city needs an experienced businessman and a consensus builder who will invite the people to hold him accountable."

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"School violence under scrutiny"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, December 20, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The School Department has met with officials at the city's two high schools to address a series of student disciplinary incidents that occurred during November, Superintendent of Schools Katherine E. Darlington told the School Committee last night.

Darlington did not refer to any specific incidents, but listed the general causes for the problems as "anything from miscommunication, to misunderstanding, to a lack of a clear perception, to boys fighting over a girl.

"Any number of things," she said.

At the School Committee's previous meeting on Dec. 5, Pittsfield High School student Ian Douglas said he was concerned about the increase in violence at PHS this year, and urged the board to provide the school with more of a police presence. Russell Quetti, Pittsfield High's school resource officer, is also a Pittsfield Police Officer.

During discussion last night, School Committee member Daltrey Turner said there is a "feeling" that disciplinary issues ranging from drug problems to inappropriate behavior have been more of a problem in city schools this year than in the past.

Number of incidents 'high'

"I don't know if that's accurate or not," she said.

"Looking at the number of incidents from this November to last November," Darlington said, "it's high."

Noting that boys fighting over girls occurs every year, Turner asked Darlington to explain the difference in disciplinary issues since school began.

Darlington cited the change in leadership at Pittsfield High School that occurred when former Principal Howard J. Eberwein III was named assistant superintendent of schools on July 31.

"Howard Eberwein was everything to everyone at Pittsfield High School for many years," she said.

Eberwein was replaced at Pittsfield High School on an interim basis by Annie Marie Mutz, the chairwoman of the high school's guidance department. But Mutz expressed a desire to go back to her old position after school opened, and she was replaced by former Pittsfield High history teacher Ann Beauregard, who had become the city's alternative education director in September.

'A clear understanding'

Beauregard, appointed to her new position on Oct. 22, is Pittsfield High School's interim principal for the remainder of the school year.

Since Beauregard took over, there has been a "clear understanding" about what is expected at Pittsfield High School, Darlington said.

Since meeting with high school officials, Darlington said the School Department has surveyed school staff members, formed a school discipline committee to address rules and student expectations, encouraged additional membership on student councils and worked on establishing a "re-entry protocol" for suspended students to follow when they return to school.

Darlington said that contrary to feedback the School Department has received, the disciplinary incidents are not specifically linked to high school students who were formally enrolled in alternative education programs.

"They're spread across the whole student population," she said. "We feel comfortable at this point that we're addressing these issues."

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"PHS village must also do its part"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, December 28, 2007

As a former teacher and department chair at Pittsfield High School, I have had the privilege of working with both Anne Beauregard (current PHS principal) and Anne Marie Mutz (interim principal and guidance department chair). I can say without question that these two women are members of an elite group of educators. They arrive at work each day because they not only love their craft, but because they believe in the students we serve. Both women have, for many years, extended themselves far beyond the classroom: as class advisors, coaches, chaperones and volunteers.

The Eagle article ("School violence under scrutiny," Dec. 20) unfairly represented these women as somehow playing a significant role in the troubles that currently exist at PHS. To me, these women were used as scapegoats for a much larger problem. As per the African Proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," I now wonder, where is the village right now? The families? The district level administration? The community?

To work with the students who come to our schools today requires patience and understanding far beyond what we have grown accustomed to in the past. We all play a role in supporting families and children and Anne Marie Mutz and Anne Beauregard clearly do their part. It is time for the rest of the village to step up.

SUSAN STRONG
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Bank takes on roll of Scrooge"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, December 22, 2007

Legacy Banks laid off 10 employees eight days before Christmas. With its stature, it could have at least waited until after the first of the year to deliver such devastating news. I am sure there were employees there with extensive years of service and devotion who deserved better.

The higher-ups should take a few minutes out of their special day while they're enjoying their dinners and unwrapping their gifts to put themselves in the shoes of the "good people" and imagine the despair and worry they have caused.

For the newly laid off employees of Legacy Banks, please know that someone is thinking of you on what should be a joyous time of year. Please stay strong and try to have a merry Christmas. For the decision-makers at Legacy Banks, the question is, if you can treat your employees in such a manner, how do you treat your customers?

DANIEL MATTEOTTI, MARK ROVIANO
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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iBerkshires.com
"Pittsfield Gets $1.5M for Streetscape Project"
By Jen Thomas - December 22, 2007

PITTSFIELD - The city's Streetscape initiative will receive a much-needed boost, thanks to a $1.47 million federal earmark announced Thursday.

Part of the fiscal 2008 omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress late Wednesday night, the funds reflect a 47 percent increase in funding from an earlier $1 million figure, according to a statement provided by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver's office.

Deanna Ruffer, the city's community development director, said the money will be used to implement Phase 2 of the project during the summer of 2009.

"The funds will allow us to follow next summer's construction with another phase that'll concentrate on Park Square to Columbus Avenue," said Ruffer. "We're improving the pedestrian amenities from sidewalk reconstruction to new benches to installing ornamental lighting."

As an added bonus, the new funds will also allow the city to complete the sidewalk in front of the proposed $12.9 million Beacon Cinema in the Kresge-Kinnell building on North Street at the same time the cinema is slated to open.

"As we bring more and more people downtown, we're ensuring that we'll be able to handle it," said Ruffer.

The Streetscape Project, which is expected to take approximately five years to complete, concentrates on enhancing the downtown area - from Memorial Park to Wahconah Park - through the accomplishment of six specific goals.

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. Improving pedestrian safety, circulation and comfort

. Stimulating conomic development

. Incorporating culture/heritage/history

. Enhancing aesthetics

. Creating new downtown image

. Incorporating traffic-calming measures

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"The best way to describe the Streetscape Project is to say we are redecorating Pittsfield's and Berkshire County's living room," said Ruffer.

In 2008, Ruffer plans to begin Phase 1, which will focus on West Housatonic Street to Park Square, and is currently negotiating final plan reviews with the Massachusetts Highway Department. Olver helped procure $1.8 million for that phase.

"The project will further revitalize downtown Pittsfield. It will boost the arts and culture elements of downtown, encourage new private investment in downtown and make the environment friendlier for residents and tourists alike," the Amherst Democrat said in a statement. "Berkshire County as a whole will benefit from downtown Pittsfield streetscape. Pittsfield is the economic center of the county, and the city's economy affects the regional economy."

Other City Earmarks

The Gladys Allen Brigham Youth Center received $188,000 for youth empowerment programs and, according to Chief Executive Director Kelly Baity, this is the first time in her 19 years that the center has received federal funds.

"This project will have a real impact on our community. The Brigham Center often provides a safety net for area youth who lack other positive outlets for support. It is critically important that these children are not forgotten," said Olver in a statement.

The funds will be used to support ABC School Age Enrichment, an after-school program at the center, and Youth Empowerment Services Plus, which provides prevention-based counseling services for children and adolescents, ages 5 to 18 years old.

"We're rally lucky to have these programs here," said Baity.

The center, which served 2,200 community members in 2007, has hopes to reach out to more organizations in the Northern Berkshires while continuing its mission of empowering children, especially girls, to become responsible, confident and personally fulfilled individuals.

A $269,500 earmark for Barrington Stage Company will be used to complete the renovation of the Berkshire Music Hall, according to artistic director Julianne Boyd.

"The money will be used for brick and mortar for our theater," Boyd said.

Bush, at a press conference late Thursday afternoon, charged the Democratic Congress with "wasteful spending" and said his budget director would be looking for ways to deal with some of the 9,800 earmarks in the bill, according to The Washington Post. The president signed the bill Friday.

The bill also contains $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan that the president requested, along with $5 million in earmarks for Berkshire County, including $246,000 for the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts that was originally included in an earlier bill that was vetoed.

The grant to support the Berkshire Environmental Resource Center, a policy and research center for students and community environmental agencies, will allow MCLA to enhance its programming and outreach, develop environmental workshops for teachers and students and purchase a hybrid van for transportation.

"The Berkshire Environmental Resource Center will hopefully serve as an ongoing public awareness program that will engage students, teachers and community leaders in the process of environmental studies," said Dean of Academic Affairs Monica Joslin in July.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Rezoning stalled: City awaits engineering study to act on Unistress proposal"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, December 28, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Two weeks after the City Council approved Unistress Corp.'s controversial rezoning proposal on Partridge Road, the company is waiting for the completion of an engineering study on the 15.6-acre parcel before moving the project forward.

With the parcel now rezoned from residential to light industrial use, the next step in the process is for Petricca Development to apply to the Community Development Board for special permits that will enable Unistress Corp. to use the site to provide more storage space for the large prestressed concrete products that it manufactures.

Unistress Corp. CEO Perri C. Petricca said yesterday that he has yet to file the applications with the Community Development Board, whose next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 15. Petricca Development LLC and Unistress Corp. are subsidiaries of Petricca Industries Inc. of Pittsfield.

Anticipated next week

Petricca hopes that the report, being compiled by Hill Engineering of Pittsfield, will be completed by next week. The engineering report will contain the specifics that Petricca Development needs to determine numerous conditions, such as screening and berms, the firm said it would establish on the parcel if the City Council granted the zoning change.

"A site plan, screening guides and layout" are some of the issues that will be included in the engineering report, Petricca said. "We're still going back and forth with the neighbors about where the berm will be."

"We're all waiting on that (report)," said Attorney Timothy Sullivan Jr., one of three officers of the Partridge Road Association, a neighborhood group that opposed the zoning change.

Petricca and Sullivan said the two sides have communicated via phone calls and e-mail since the City Council approved a second and final reading of the rezoning proposal on Dec. 11.

Sullivan said the engineering report will contain a topographical map that will help determine the elevation changes on the 15.6 acre parcel. Knowing the differences in the land's elevation will determine the levels at which Unistress will store the products it makes for use in bridges, parking garages, stadiums and railway stations. That will also help determine how high and where the items suggested for screening those components from the neighbors will be located, Sullivan added.

"Before anyone can talk about screening, you've got to find out what the elevation is," Sullivan said. "You've got to have the geography there."

Petricca Development requested the zoning change as part of Unistress Corp.'s overall expansion plans. The increase in storage is expected to provide Unistress with 20 new full-time jobs, Perri Petricca has said.

The council's final approval came after last-minute negotiations between members of Unistress Corp. and the neighborhood group that concluded 10 minutes before the Dec. 11 meeting began. Partridge Road Group member Raymond Costello characterized the settlement as an "agreement in principle" on the differences that had divided the two sides throughout the often contentious rezoning process.

"We came to an agreement as much as we could agree," Sullivan said yesterday.

Last-minute settlement

A portion of the parcel had been used as a cornfield. As part of the last-minute settlement, Petricca agreed to maintain the entire cornfield in the same state as it was this past summer. According to Sullivan, Petricca agreed to that stipulation shortly before the City Council meeting by literally drawing a line on a map while the representatives of the two sides met in a hallway. The engineering study will also help determine exactly where that line is located, Sullivan said.

Petricca has said that the firm will maintain the same protections on the Partridge Road parcel that Unistress installed on an adjoining 56.5-acre plot that the city rezoned from residential to light industrial use in May 1997.

Those eight safeguards included a series of buffers, berms and no-build zones and the creation of a state Agricultural Preservation Restriction for part of the land.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"State board gives businesses a boost"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, December 30, 2007

PITTSFIELD — The state Economic Advisory Coordinating Council has approved economic incentive packages for Sabic Innovative Plastics, for three local businesses and for the new owners of the Pittsfield Plaza on West Housatonic Street.

All of the initiatives had been approved by the City Council on Dec. 11, following a favorable review by its finance subcommittee on Nov. 26. But the state's approval means that the incentives can be implemented in 2008.

"It's a state program," said Ann Dobrowolski, of the city's Department of Community Development, "and they have to approve the state side of it because they contain state tax credits. It's a standard procedure."

Petitions containing the incentive packages were presented to the City Council in mid-November following the municipal elections. Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer had said the council needed to complete the approval process so the state board could review the incentives by the end of this year.

The three businesses are Pittsfield Rye & Specialty Breads, Apex Resource Technologies and Unistress Corp.

The economic incentive packages include Tax Increment Financing plans, or TIFs, for Sabic and for the three businesses. The city granted TIFs to all four to offset the costs of private investment in their ambitious company expansion plans. The Sabic initiative includes an additional building that was not included in the original plan presented to the council.

The new owners of the Pittsfield Plaza, Alfred Weissman Real Estate Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y., applied to the city for the creation of an economic opportunity area at the West Housatonic Street site. Dobrowolski has said the creation of that area would give the new owners preliminary plans to "open the door" for a TIF.

Weissman Real Estate, which specializes in revitalizing shopping centers and industrial parks, purchased the dilapidated 45-year-old, 13-acre shopping center in February.

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"Revived Pittsfield needs pro baseball"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Now that the revitalization of North Street is in full swing, I think it's time to thank our mayor and all those involved. While technology businesses are slow to materialize, the arts and tourism are flourishing in the Berkshires.

We must, however, look at an area that needs to be addressed, especially with the discovery of those documents and letters revealing the origins of baseball in Pittsfield. This city must have organized professional baseball.

We've had some bad ideas and approaches to this issue. Bad locations, need for eminent domain, flood plains and the rejuvenation of an historic park that needs to remain history.

Three things are needed. At minimum, a Double A franchise. At minimum, a 7,500-seat ballpark. Third, only two franchises should be approached, the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.

On the franchises, the fan base is here for support, the lovers and haters. If you want proof, when these two major league teams are about to play each other, read The Berkshire Eagle, stand around the water cooler at work, or go to the bars.

Imagine a Red Sox team and a park built with a 25-30 foot mini-monster in left field, with right-field bleachers to hold a minimum of 500 fans.

I even know a perfect site. Relatively, flat, not a flood plain, and even a large, unused parking lot across the street. The parcel may be industrially zoned, but there couldn't be a better location than the corner of Tyler Extension and Kellogg streets.

Let's continue the revitalization of all of Pittsfield, not just North Street. Build something that all of Berkshire County will come to, a nice centerpiece to Pittsfield and baseball.

SCOTT THERRIEN
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"City politics is in his blood"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, December 31, 2007

PITTSFIELD — Kevin J. Sherman, councilor-elect at large, is the only new member of the incoming City Council, but he certainly has the background to serve on Pittsfield's governing body.

His great-uncle is former mayor and City Council President Remo Del Gallo, who was chairman of the Pittsfield Democratic City Committee for 35 years and currently is head of the Community Development Board.

His father, defense attorney Thomas M. Sherman Jr., served as Pittsfield's assistant city solicitor between 1976 and 1981 and ran for City Council as a candidate from Ward 1 in 1983.

There also are a variety of relatives who have held positions in civic organizations, including Sherman's maternal grandfather, Joseph DelGallo, who was president and manager of Itam Lodge 564 and promoted the city's first ethnic fairs. Sherman's mother, Maryann, was a public and parochial school teacher for 30 years and a member of both the Civitan and Itam boards.

An aide to former state Rep. Christopher J. Hodgkins of Lee for three years, Sherman lost to current state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli by 106 votes in the Democratic primary for Hodgkins' old seat in 2002. During that campaign, Sherman said that he first thought of running for office when he was 12 years old.

"That is true," Sherman said recently. "I don't know about specifically City Council, but Pittsfield politics has always been of interest to me. I was always that guy — all the way through middle school, high school and college — that was always talking about Pittsfield and trying to convince his buddies that everything you need is right here.

"I've always had a great pride in Pittsfield," said Sherman, currently a claims representative for Berkshire Life Insurance Co. "I can't say that I laid out my campaign when I was 12, but I definitely felt the passion as far back as I can remember. ... A lot of my passion and pride in community was instilled by mother, by father, my grandfather, my uncles and my aunts."

Sherman, who turns 31 tomorrow — he was the first child born in Pittsfield in 1977 — will fill the councilor-at-large seat vacated by Tricia Farley-Bouvier when he is sworn in with the rest of the incoming council on Jan. 7. When Farley-Bouvier decided not to run for re-election in November, Sherman was one of five candidates who ran for the council's four at-large seats. He finished fourth in the voting, defeating the other new candidate, Marjorie E. Cohan, by 349 votes.

Unlike Sherman, Cohan, the retired executive director of the Brien Center, is not a Pittsfield native. Family ties hold clout in Pittsfield politics, and Sherman acknowledged that those connections definitely helped him during the campaign.

"I think the support was paramount," Sherman said. "Not only from the connections, but from the support they gave me, holding signs, writing letters. ... Neighbors holding coffee hours for me was very important. I couldn't have done it without my family, or without my friends, for that matter.

"I don't know if everybody voted for me because they knew a relative of mine," he said. "I don't think that's the case. I think a lot of it was due to the message that we put out and the hard work that we did."

Sherman said several aspects of his political philosophy — loyalty, the value of constituents' concerns, leadership, negotiating and decision-making — were learned while working for Hodgkins. Shortly after his 1999 graduation from Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn., he was hired by Hodgkins to work as a legislative aide in his Lee office.

Sherman, who worked his way up to chief of staff, said, "I owe a great deal of gratitude for everything (Hodgkins) did for me."

Hodgkins said Sherman is persistent, positive and a hard worker.

"I think if you could take (City Council President) Gerry Lee and (Ward 4 Councilor) Mike Ward and mix them together, you'd get Kevin Sherman," Hodgkins said. "Gerry is Pittsfield, and Mike represents the new generation of Pittsfield. Kevin blends all of them together with a great deal of positive thinking."

Sherman is the youngest of Pittsfield's 11 city councilors by seven years — Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio, who turns 38 in August, is next in line. But Sherman doesn't feel he has to distinguish himself right away.

"I'm not one to stand up and say, 'Look at me,' " he said. "I want to get some petitions in that I've been thinking about over the past couple of months. I want to kind of ease into things as I go, and the distinguishing will take care of itself as the term goes along. I'm going to do things in the best interests of the city, not the best interests of me."

Shortly before the city election in November, the Pittsfield Gazette, the city's weekly newspaper, stated that, based on his statements during the campaign, Sherman did not seem likely to "rock the boat" if he were elected.

"You can't have a revolution every two years," said Sherman, adding that he is aware of the Gazette's comment. "In other words, you have to have the ability to work with your colleagues to get to a central goal, which is to make Pittsfield the best place there is.

"If there's an issue that doesn't make sense to me, or if something seems unethical or not right, I'll speak up," Sherman said. "I'll always speak up, because that's what leaders do. I think everybody has the ability to rock the boat. But those people who want an upheaval every two years ... it can't happen to continue the progress that has been made.

"So while I'll speak my mind and do what's best for the city, I'm not going to do things just to do them," he said. "I'm not going to be a contrarian just to be one."

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Lee poised to be leader: City council will keep president"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, January 05, 2008

PITTSFIELD — It's been 20 years since a City Council president has served in that position for more than two terms. But it appears that that streak is going to end Monday.

Two-term Council President Gerald M. Lee said yesterday that he is interested in heading the 11-member council for two more years, and he appears to have the support of his colleagues. The new council will elect a president when it is officially sworn in at 10 a.m. Monday at City Hall.

"I would very much like to see Gerry Lee remain as president," Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi said. "He's done a great job. ... He's by far the most knowledgeable of all the councilors, including myself."

Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti said the results of last fall's election showed that the majority of city residents believe that Pittsfield is moving in the right direction.

"Gerry as president should continue," he said. "He's done a good job, and he is the person that I will support on Monday.

"I served under two different council presidents," continued Marchetti, who served on the council between 2001 and 2003, then was re-elected two years ago. "I don't see a need to change."

The last council president to serve more than two terms was Angelo C. Stracuzzi, who served five terms before running unsuccessfully for mayor in 1989.

"I think I've been effective as president," Lee said. "The meetings have been appropriate, and things have been done in an appropriate fashion. I'd like to keep it that way."

A retiree since stepping down as Pittsfield's police chief in January 1997, Lee said he also has the time to devote to being council president that most of his younger colleagues do not have.

"It's not that someone else isn't capable, but it does take time," he said. "When a lot of things pass, they require signatures the next day. Land deeds are something that will come up or the odd bill. I'm able to do that.

"Between the Police Department and the City Council, I've worked for the city for 40 years," Lee said. "I have a lot of institutional knowledge."

Sometimes things can become stale or routine when someone heads an elective body for too long, but that's not the case with Lee.

"If I thought there was any kind of access lagging on my part or the public's part, I would definitely change it," Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward said. "Rather than become stale, I think we've become refined. Another way of looking at it is that we're hitting our stride."

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"www.cbs6albany.com" - Mary Beth Wenger - January 7, 2008 - 4:39PM

"Stepping into Third Term, Pittsfield Mayor Prioritizes Education"

After taking the oath of office for a third term, Pittsfield mayor James Ruberto, a Democrat, told constituents education would be a top priority for the next two years.

The mayor is proposing the building of a new, state-of-the-art high school to replace the current one, which was built back in 1931. Ruberto says this is an investment in the future and that students need the best education possible to compete in the 21st-century marketplace.

So far, there has been no price tag put on the proposed school and it would be subject to the approval of the City Council and a voter bond referendum. But in an era when there are budget deficits everywhere, CBS 6 News asked Mayor Ruberto -- how this would be paid for?

“We’re growing, we have to grow, increase our tax base," responded Ruberto. "We have to ask people to balance the interest of neighborhoods with the interests of development. “

The mayor also called for setting up a “Green Commission” to study environmental issues, diverting GE economic development funds to help support the Berkshire Museum and pledged that construction of the long-awaited downtown Cinema Center would start in the next two years of his term.

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www.capitalnews9.com
"Inauguration day in Pittsfield"
Updated: 1/7/2008 5:17:55 PM
By: Ryan Burgess

PITTSFIELD, M.A. -- It was an occasion to clap your hands if you wanted. Or to raise them if you could. It was Inauguration Day in Pittsfield and it called for all of the above.

"The importance of these next two coming years are that we continue to show confidence in ourselves and to continue to express a willingness to invest," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.

For Ruberto, this marks the start of his third term in office. He wants to invest more in local businesses, especially downtown. It's part of what some call Pittsfield's Renaissance.

"There's resources we haven't gone after in the past that we need to go after now to build that vibrant downtown we all want to have," said State Senator Ben Downing.

Using the Legislature to get some of these resources is a big part of Ruberto's development plan. But it's not the only area that needs improvement. For example, the Mayor says that bringing more businesses to Pittsfield is one way for the city to succeed. But those in the State House feel that improving areas like education and housing are equally as important.

"There's no question about it. We need state of the art schools; we need improved voc. tech. programs. We have to prepare students for the new economy," said State Representative Christopher Speranzo.

"If we want to be a more sustainable city, if we want to be a more walkable city, a more livable city with better quality of life, we need more and better housing in the downtown. We need a better mix of high end and affordable housing," said Downing.

It's an upbeat message, but they say the city needs to reverse one downward trend.

"We've got to get into the neighborhoods and turn renters into homeowners," said Ruberto.

It's a message Ruberto hopes residents buy into, for at least another two years.

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"Mayor outlines Pittsfield vision"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, January 08, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto was sworn in to his third consecutive term as Pittsfield's chief executive yesterday, saying his top priority for the next two years is devising a plan for a new high school.

"First and foremost at the center for our dream for a better Pittsfield, we must have — and we will have — a plan in place for a new state-of-the-art high school," Ruberto said in his inaugural address.

"Our students deserve nothing less than the best, most flexible, most technologically based advanced learning environment in the country," he added. "And that's what we're going to build."

Those remarks received applause from the large crowd that attended the ceremony in City Council chambers. The 11-member City Council, which has only one new member, also took oaths of office yesterday.

Councilor at large Gerald M. Lee unanimously was re-elected council president by his peers for the third consecutive term. He was the only candidate nominated. Lee selected Councilor at large Matthew M. Kerwood as vice president.

A consolidation of Pittsfield's two high schools has been discussed for years, but last year the city hired an architectural firm to determine the feasibility of such a project. A report by Dore & Whittier Architects Inc. is expected to be released this month.

In an interview during last fall's mayoral campaign, Ruberto said that having one or two high schools in Pittsfield was not as important as the manner in which education is delivered to students in the future. He also noted he could envision three or four kinds of schools operating under one roof.

Following yesterday's speech, Ruberto said that using one or both of Pittsfield's current high schools for such a facility — or constructing a new building — is an issue "to be decided," as are the costs.

The city must grow and diversify its tax base, he said, adding that there must be a balance between neighborhood interests and economic growth.

He said he hoped that an engineering plan for a state-of-the-art high school and bond proposals that will be necessary to fund such a project can be completed within the next two years. "It will not be easy, and it will not be cheap," Ruberto said in his speech. "But some things are just plain ordinary worth fighting for."

Affirmative action plan

He called on the School Committee to create an affirmative action plan to put more minority teachers in the city's classrooms. He also plans on creating a "rainbow commission" to examine how Pittsfield can be more supportive to immigrants and U.S.-born minorities.

He also will form a "green commission" to advise and recommend how Pittsfield can reduce its carbon footprint, encourage both recycling and sustainable construction, and become an incubator for green technologies, he said.

To promote health and safety, Ruberto said the city intends to pursue the construction of a nature trail through the West Side neighborhood that eventually will connect Wahconah Park to the Wild Acres Conservation Area on South Mountain Road.

"We've already received $1.75 million for this project, which is a good start but not nearly enough to see construction begin," he said.

'Innovative' programs

He said the city plans to use "innovative" programs to turn renters into first-time homeowners. Pittsfield will need special legislation and tax incentives to adopt some of these programs. The others will rely on the support of employers, "starting with the city of Pittsfield," he said.

The mayor said that he expects construction in Pittsfield's $10 million downtown Streetscape project to begin this spring.

Finally, Ruberto said he expects the delayed $12.6 million Beacon Cinemas project in the historic Kresge-Kinnell building on North Street to be completed in the next two years.

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1/8/2008

"Luciforo", THE DARK PRINCE of Pittsfield, swears in the city's returning "Good Old Boy Network" Mayor! How BANAL! How predictable! How "Pittsfield Politics!"

In Disgust!
Jonathan Alan Melle

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Go to:
www.iberkshires.com/story/25612/Mayor-Details-Plans-for-Success.html
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"Mayor Details Plans for Success"
By Jen Thomas - iBerkshires.com - January 07, 2008

PITTSFIELD - When Mayor James M. Ruberto addressed hundreds of local legislators, community leaders and the incoming city councilors at Monday morning's inaugural ceremony, he sent one clear message - Dare to dream.

"Here we are today - Jan. 7, 2008 - in the dead of winter, with some tough economic times upon us and a lot of uncertainty upon the world," said Ruberto, who is embarking on a third consecutive term as mayor. "Some would say we should lay low until we reach a more secure future. But I say we must continue our commitment to securing our own future."

"Now is not the time to back down. Now is the time to dream big."

After taking the oath of office, administered by Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Ruberto explained that part of that dream is working to make Pittsfield "the finest small city in the Northeast" and "the envy of the entire region" through a collaborative effort that engages all citizens. Outlining plans that included a new high school, a continued emphasis on the revitalization of the downtown and a commitment to diversity, Ruberto said the path to progress is clear.

"Four years ago, it was more difficult to see our future but now we can see a picture of our community," he said.

Specifically, Ruberto expects to see construction begin on his much-celebrated $12.9 million Beacon Cinema on North Street, more General Electric Economic Development funds funneled to the Berkshire Museum for future renovations and a reshaping of the Park Square area. In his third term, Ruberto wants to see Pittsfield's streets safer and stronger, a goal he wants to achieve by encouraging renters to become homeowners.

"For far too long, we have been far too patient, waiting for various ideas from Boston bureaucrats to improve our neighborhoods," he said. "As we improve our neighborhoods and invest in the city, we will provide housing to those who need it. We will strengthen our safety net of services. We will improve handicapped-accessibility around this city. We must promote health and safety."

The key to success for the city is a strong connection between government and business, said Ruberto, who named attracting new businesses to the area as a priority.

"We have to attract new employers, create new jobs and open up opportunities for our citizens," he said.

Ruberto's biggest undertaking in the new year, though, may be the promise to create a new high school that addresses all the needs of the modern student.

"At the center of our dream for a better Pittsfield, we must have and will have a plan in place for a new state-of-the-art high school. I have seen the talent of our kids and they have inspired me," he said. "This will not be cheap. It will not be easy but some things are just simply necessary."

"This high school will be a monument of Pittsfield's renaissance," he continued.

Ruberto pledged to look confidently ahead, all the while asking for the support of the people to make his dreams a reality.

"Who in God's name is going to do all the work? The answer is all of us. I'm asking every able-bodied person to take and share in this dream and to share in the work to see it through," Ruberto said.

Monday's inaugural ceremony also doubled as an organizational meeting of the City Council and a swearing in of the members-elect of the City Council and the city clerk.

For re-elected Council President Gerald Lee, his fifth term may be the most exciting.

"I'm curious to see what the year holds. I expect people to be talking about the money allocated to the museum and the streetscape project. I'm also interested in the plans for the school. It obviously won't be completed in my time here but it'll be started now," Lee said.

With the first regular meeting of the City Council set for Tuesday night at 7:30, Lee said he's ready to get moving.

"With the first meeting tomorrow, there's not much time to celebrate," he said.

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Mayor James M. Ruberto is sworn in by Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo as City Councilors Matthew Kerwood and Michael Ward look on at Monday's inaugural ceremony.
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City Councilors were also sworn in on Monday.
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City Council President Gerald Lee will serve his third term in that position.
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Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.
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(Photo by Jonathan Levine, The Pittsfield Gazette)
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"Ruberto presses forward"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pittsfield has, in the words of Mayor James Ruberto, "traveled far" over the past four years, but the agenda established by the mayor yesterday as he began his third term in office is appropriately aggressive for a city that still has a long way to go. In its focus on the neighborhoods and education, the mayor is seeking to build upon the positive attitude nurtured during the past four years to tackle some complex issues that have defied easy resolution.

The on-again, off-again debate over whether Pittsfield still needs two high schools will heat up later this month with the release of a consultant's report on the advisability of consolidating the two schools, and Mr. Ruberto got in front of that debate yesterday by making the development of a plan for a new high school a top priority. Plainly, something has to be done, and it is just a matter of what, specifically.

Pittsfield High School has become the educational version of Wahconah Park, and money spent patching up this structure is money wasted. Taconic has the advantage of being newer, but little else. While building a new school may be the ideal, the cost could be prohibitive, as the state is still in the process of recovering from the many years in which school building funds were distributed willy-nilly. While expanding Taconic would probably be much cheaper, there are limits to how much the building can be improved. This year, however, it appears certain that this discussion will go beyond the theoretical to the tangible.

We agree with the mayor that the city can't wait for Boston bureaucrats to come up with ideas to lift up the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods, and happily, community activists in both of those neighborhoods have already laid much of the groundwork. The first-buyer home programs the mayor referred to in his inaugural speech can play a part, and we hope the Berkshire delegation will pave the way for whatever legislation is needed to help make them a reality.

Pittsfield's neighborhoods are becoming the new homes for a wide variety of ethnic groups, and the mayor's proposed "rainbow commission" should benefit the city as well as ethnic residents, some of whom are immigrants, others born in the nation. Cities that can assimilate minority populations while building on the new ideas and perspectives they bring are stronger, while those who isolate minorities and refuse to acknowledge their needs and potential contributions suffer for their folly.

The City Council's unanimous re-election of Gerald M. Lee to a third term as Council president should assure the continuation of the good working relationship between the Council and mayor. The city's executive and its legislative body won't always agree, nor should they, but they should share the same general perspective, and the Council under Mr. Lee has been instrumental in advancing Mr. Ruberto's progressive agenda. Residents and outsiders as well gain an impression of the city from watching the televised City Council meetings, and with Mr. Lee maintaining decorum and professionalism, he has helped cast the city in a positive light.

The year ahead is not shaping up as a good one economically, either nationally or statewide, and funding for city initiatives will be tight. We agree with Mayor Ruberto, however, that the city must continue to press forward. The last four years have shown that the mayor, Council and the many people throughout the city who believe in Pittsfield's potential can accomplish plenty, regardless of the obstacles. This term should be no different.

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"No justification for evaluation"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In a time when the value of housing is dropping nation-wide, how can the city of Pittsfield increase the evaluation of my home by 25 percent in one year?

I am a reasonable man knowing that taxes are required, but after 11 years I can no longer afford to live here in Pittsfield. How many others are in this same boat?

DAVID OCKERHAUSEN
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"City's health costs up 18 percent"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, January 10, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The total cost of the city's health insurance plan increased 18 percent to $21.4 million in fiscal 2007, according to the city's health insurance broker.

That 18 percent increase, a gain of $3.2 million, includes claims from all five options in the city's health plan in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2007, Holly Taylor of True North Financial Services told the City Council. The main reason for the increase was a rise in the number of "catastrophic claims," those over $25,000 and $100,000, Taylor said.

A total of 99 patients filed claims over $25,000, an increase of 10 percent from the previous fiscal year. The amount of those claims, $6.5 million, represented a 42 percent increase, or $1.9 million, from fiscal 2006.

"That translates into 40 percent of the HMO dollars being spent on 3 percent of the members," Taylor said at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The number of patients who filed claims over $100,000 increased from seven to 14, while the amount of those claims rose $1.5 million, from $1.02 million to $2.5 million.

Taylor said that catastrophic health insurance claims are not unusual, and that they represent the biggest driver of medical costs for employers across the country.

The city also saw a 35 percent increase, or $780,000 rise, in inpatient hospital services, and a 25 percent rise, or $1 million, in outpatient hospital services.

"The severity of the large claim population drove those services," Taylor said.

The figures were much different in fiscal 2006 when the city's health insurance plan finished with a $1.9 million surplus and experienced a 10 percent decrease in admissions. Although the health insurance costs increased greatly in fiscal 2007, the city actually finished the fiscal year with a $244,249 surplus when the $540,683 in stop/loss reimbursements — the amount of insurance the city purchases to protect itself from large claims — are added in. That number is within 1.2 percent of the projected costs for fiscal 2007.

The number of retirees entering the city's health insurance plans continues to grow, Taylor said. Enrollment in the Managed Blue for Seniors plan, a medicare HMO for retirees over age 65 and their spouses, grew by 6 percent to 508 enrollees, while the costs for that plan rose 14.4 percent to $2.24 million.

In the HMO Blue New England plan, Taylor said 27.3 percent of those enrolled are over age 55, while 48 percent are over age 45.

The council last year approved a measure authorizing the submission of a special act to the state Legislature that would allow retired city employees to pay their health insurance premuiums at the same rate that was in effect when they retired. Taylor said the Legislature has yet to take action on that measure.

"We're disappointed that we haven't heard from Boston," she said. "It's an issue for everybody to deal with. The retiree population is going to snowball."

Pittsfield's health insurance plan changed from self-funded to fully funded on July 1 last year, the beginning of fiscal 2008. The city decided to change the funding formula because its Blue Cross Blue Shield premium, or fully funded rates, were within $100,000 of the projected self funded plans costs for fiscal 2008.

Under the self-funded plan, the city of Pittsfield pays for all of its actual health insurance claims. Under a fully funded plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield assumes all of that risk for the plan year.

Taylor said the city's medical claims were up 5 percent between July and November, while the enrollment in the Pittsfield's health plans has increased 2 percent.

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Kathleen A. Amuso is the returning chairwoman of the School Committee in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in January 2008.
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Pittsfield School Committee
"Amuso retains panel's chair: The committee's former longtime chairman returns to the board but isn't nominated"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, January 10, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Kathleen A. Amuso will remain chairwoman of the School Committee — despite the return to the board of its longtime former chairman, Carmen C. Massimiano Jr.

Kathleen A. Amuso, who chaired the School Committee the last two years, was unanimously elected the board's chairwoman during last night's reorganizational meeting. There was no discussion by the six members. Mayor James M. Ruberto, an ex-officio member of the School Committee, did not attend.

Massimiano, who was re-elected to the School Committee in November after deciding not to seek re-election two years ago, chaired the board for six years up to 2005, and for two years during his first term on the School Committee between 1988 and 1992. Berkshire County Sheriff for almost 30 years, Massimiano currently chairs the Licensing Board.

He was not nominated for the chairmanship.

Amuso, nominated by new School Committee member Erin Sullivan, was the lone candidate presented for consideration. "Thank you everybody," she said after the voting. "I appreciate your support."

Returning member Daniel C. Elias was unanimously re-elected the board's vice chairman. Elias, also the lone candidate for that position, was nominated by Massimiano.

Angel D. Ramirez Jr., the new School Committee's senior member, was unanimously re-elected as the board's secretary, a position that he has held for many years. Ramirez is beginning his 11th consecutive two-year term.

The board was sworn in to office by Amal Rawling of the City Clerk's office shortly before last night's meeting officially began. Churchill Cotton joins Massimiano and Sullivan as the board's other new member. Unlike Massimiano, Cotton and Sullivan have never served on the board before.

In other business, Superintendent of Schools Katherine E. Darlington said the School Department plans to create a leadership license program that will allow current employees to become certified as principals, assistant principals, or supervisors of specific content areas. Five School Department employees have already applied for the program, she said.

"There's nothing like mentoring your own," Darlington said.

Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School will each hold an open house between 6 and 8 p.m. on Jan. 30, Darlington said. When asked why both events occur on the same night, Amuso said some parents prefer it that way so that they can go to both schools.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224

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iBerkshires.com - January 10, 2008
"HospiceCare House Groundbreaking"

Pittsfield – HospiceCare in The Berkshires, Inc. will break ground today at 11 AM on their Hospice House project. HospiceCare finalized the purchase of 13 acres at 877 South St., Pittsfield as the site of the new Hospice House. This House will provide a homelike setting with medical facilities for people who wish to transition at home but for whatever reasons, require more medical supervision than it is possible to provide in their own home.

The House will be named the Anne McGraw House in honor of a lead gift from the Donald C. McGraw Foundation. The building will be approximately 20,000 square feet, comprised of 12 patient suites, common family areas, a non-denominational chapel, bereavement counseling rooms and office space for House staff.

“The Department of Public Health is licensing only six hospice houses throughout the state and I am proud that Pittsfield is home to the only one west of Worcester,” said Mayor James M. Ruberto. “The new Anne McGraw House will help thousands of families in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hamden Counties cope with family members passing on.”

The cost of the project is expected to be $10.8 million. This includes land acquisition, site development, construction, design, and the renovation of the office building space. The project will be funded through private gifts with the balance secured through borrowed funds and agency reserves. HospiceCare is in the process of conducting a $7.5 million capital campaign and securing a tax-free bond from the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority (Mass HEFA) in order to begin actual construction.

Ileen Cohen, President of HospiceCare’s Board of Directors stated, “We are so pleased with the community’s generosity. This house will meet the needs of generations to come; for their loved ones, themselves, and others. We also wish to thank Guardian Life for their enthusiastic collaboration on this project and for welcoming us into this beautiful setting.”

In an effort to build as green a project as possible, HospiceCare secured a grant from the Berkshire Regional Planning Council to be a Low Impact Design Facility. This allows the site to take advantage of advanced engineering strategies to minimize environmental impact. The site will serve as an educational location on an on-going basis for regional engineers and architects who will be studying this type of design.

David Orenstein, HospiceCare Treasurer, believes the “…this project adds a significant element to the quality of life in the Berkshires. It is an essential community service that makes the Berkshires the best place to live.”

HospiceCare also signed a 7-½ year lease with Guardian Berkshire Life Insurance Company for space to accommodate their 80 full and part time employees. They will relocate their Home Care Clinical and Administrative Staff to space on the 4th floor of the office complex at the same location. The closing on the property took place on December 18, 2007.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Hospice breaks ground: New facility will be Ann McGraw House"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

PITTSFIELD — With a few ceremonial shovels of dirt yesterday morning, HospiceCare in the Berkshires Inc. officially broke ground on its $10.8 million hospice house facility at 877 South St., putting an end to a planning process that began 3 1/2 years ago, officials said.

"This is a wonderful day," said HospiceCare's executive director, Claire M. Pace, one of several people associated with the project who spoke following the initial groundbreaking ceremony.

The 20,000-square-foot building will be known as the Ann McGraw House, after the mother of Robin McGraw of South Egremont. Robin McGraw is a director of the Donald C. McGraw Foundation, the project's lead donor.

The 12-patient facility is designed to provide 24-hour care in a homelike environment for dying patients. It will be located on a 13-acre parcel on top of a hill behind the Guardian Berkshire Life Office Complex. Pace said plans call for the facility to house between 250 and 300 patients per year. There are only three similar facilities in the state.

HospiceCare purchased the parcel for $500,000 last year after abandoning plans to build the facility on Williams Street during the fall of 2006. It closed on the South Street site on Dec. 18, after the city approved zoning changes and special permits that allowed the project to go forward.

Following yesterday's remarks, Pace said actual construction of the facility is scheduled to begin sometime this year and should be ready for occupancy by the end of 2009.

"It will take about a year after the foundation goes in until we have occupancy," she said.

HospiceCare is in the process of securing a tax-free bond from the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority to begin the actual construction.

It also has signed a 71/2 year lease with Guardian Life for office space to accommodate the nonprofit's 80 full- and part-time employees. HospiceCare plans to move to the Guardian Life complex from its current facility at 369 South St. in March, Pace said.

The total cost of building the new facility was estimated at $9 million when HospiceCare announced it planned to purchase the Guardian Life property last April. Pace said the current $10.8 million price tag is a more accurate figure.

"Last year we were given a price based on estimates," she said. "The $10.8 million is based on fact."

The project's total cost includes land acquisition, site development, construction and design, and the renovation of office space in the Guardian Life complex.

"The project is on a hill, and going to the site is going to be more expensive than we thought," she said.

HospiceCare is currently in the middle of a $7.5 million capital campaign, but has raised only $3.7 million so far, Robin McGraw said yesterday. He brought a chart with him to the podium yesterday that showed the amount already raised compared with the fundraising goal.

"Any questions?" he asked.

Pace said the capital campaign began eight months ago and is still in the "silent phase," the portion of a fundraising campaign where an organization meets with major donors. The public phase of the capital campaign will begin this year.

"Our consultants are saying that we're doing very well," Pace said. "And, certainly, we believe we can raise the full $7.5 million."

"We are extremely grateful for all of the community support," said Ileen Cohen, the president of HospiceCare's board of directors. "This project has been a daunting experience, to say the least. There have been challenges."

In April 2006, HospiceCare entered into an option with the estate of Evelyn Miller Burbank to purchase between 30 and 35 acres of the historic Brattle Farm property at 600 Williams St., behind a parcel that contains Pittsfield's oldest house, built in 1762. But that hospice house proposal ran into resistance from nearby residents who believed that such a facility did not belong in a residential area.

Mayor James M. Ruberto said yesterday that he was "somewhat embarrassed" about the community response to the Williams Street site, adding that he also feels embarrassed when other conversations involving similar land sacrifices are proposed.

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"Second homes are taking over city"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, January 12, 2008

Is David Ockerhausen ("No justification for evaluation," letter, Jan. 8) trying to say that with gasoline and heating oil prices hovering above $3 a gallon, and with health insurance and college tuition costs heading towards infinity, he can't afford a 25 percent house value increase? Well, neither can I, and I may be boarding his boat of the departing. Unfortunately, my real estate ad will be saying "below the assessed value." Realistically, $10,000 below.

Let's not get emotional about leaving our city, let's not worry about its declining population. It will do fine with the second home owners moving in. They are the only "business" Pittsfield has managed to attract so far.

GREGORY JONES
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Elevation ordinance would give flexibility"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission are working to develop a city ordinance that would provide more zoning flexibility for developments proposed for hillsides and ridges.

Known as the Hillside and Ridgeline Overlay District, the proposed ordinance is based on provisions included in the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act.

"It would control the way development takes place at elevation and on hillsides," said Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward, who presented the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act to the City Council last year.

"It's recognized that we don't have any guidelines of control for that development," he said. "Almost everyone has seen ill-conceived hilltop construction at one time or another ... Most people would agree that some form of regulation is important."

Under the terms of an overlay district, the provisions of the ordinance would apply in areas in which zoning regulations are already in effect. For example, if a development were proposed for a hillside located in a residential zone that has no elevation requirements, the regulations contained in the overlay district would apply.

After Ward proposed consideration of the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act, the City Council referred the petition to its ordinance and rules subcommittee, which in turn referred it the committee that is updating Pittsfield's Master Plan.

The two Master Plan subcommittees that have reviewed these issues decided that a flexible zoning ordinance would better serve Pittsfield than the provisions of the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act, according to Melissa Jette-Provencher of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, who presented a first draft of the proposal to the Community Development Board.

"Why they preferred the zoning option is that the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act is specific to Berkshire County, whereas zoning is a nationally used tool," she said.

Under the terms of the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act, the Conservation Commission is listed as the hearing authority. Under the proposed zoning ordinance, either the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Community Development Board or the City Council can serve in that role, she added.

"The Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act specifies that the elevation to be protected within the Housatonic River watershed is 1,500 feet above sea level," Jette-Provencher said. "Whereas in zoning you can be flexible."

Zoning regulations are also more flexible than the provisions of the Scenic Mountain Act where any regulations have to be approved by the commissioner of the State Department of Conservation and Recreation, she added.

Jette-Provencher said the Master Plan's land use and subcommittees are also considering the development of an overlay district that would protect the city's water resources.

"What I would recommend at this time is that we continue the evolution of this document and integrate water resources into it," she said.

Board member Sheila B. Irvin said she liked the flexibility and the oversight that the proposed overlay district would give the city.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com; (413) 496-6224.

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"Protecting city hillsides"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Thursday, January 17, 2008

The proposed ordinance providing guidelines for development on hillsides and ridgelines would provide Pittsfield with protection it currently lacks. South Berkshire communities worried that the construction of McMansions will permanently ruin spectacular vistas have brought forward similar guidelines and the City Council, along with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, is wise to do the same as Pittsfield's appeal to developers grows. The ordinance, which is before two of the City Council's Master Plan committees, also offers the flexibility under zoning laws that the Berkshire Scenic Mountain Act, which requires state approval of regulations, does not provide.

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"Mayor [Jim Ruberto] steps up for museum"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, January 17, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Colonial Theatre, the Barrington Stage Company and the proposed Beacon Cinemas project. Those are some of the entities that have received substantial funding from the city of Pittsfield via the General Electric Economic Development Fund.

Mayor James M. Ruberto would like to add the 105-year-old Berkshire Museum on South Street to that list.

During his inauguration address last week, Ruberto said he planned to ask the City Council to provide the Berkshire Museum with GE Economic Development Funds, so that "this community treasure" can qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant that was awarded by the prestigious Kresge Foundation last October.

In order to receive the foundation grant, the Berkshire Museum is required to complete its $9 million "A Wider Window" capital campaign by May 1. As of yesterday, the museum was $1.2 million short of that $9 million fundraising goal, said Sherrill Ingalls, the director of marketing. The museum was $1.6 million short when the foundation awarded the grant in October, and has raised some $415,000 since then, she added.

Ingalls said if the Berkshire Museum does not raise the $9 million before May 1, it will not receive the foundation grant, and cannot reapply for it.
"We absolutely need this money," she said.

Ruberto said yesterday that the Berkshire Museum was one of Pittsfield's premier cultural attractions long before the creative economy existed, and has brought people into the city that have supported local businesses for many years. It has also provided a cultural experience for "untold thousands" of Berkshire County youngsters who have visited the museum as they've gone through school, he said.

"I think that there is an economic element here with an educational point of view," Ruberto said.

Ruberto said he plans to file a petition for the City Council to consider his proposal "within a month."

"I'm going to say it will be determined," Ruberto said when asked the amount of funding that he plans to ask the City Council to appropriate from the fund.

The council has approved Ruberto's previous requests for large appropriations from the GE Economic Development Fund, but some of them, particularly a $1 million allocation for the Colonial Theatre that was approved in September 2004, ran into resistance.

That request was approved by a minimum "super-majority" of eight affirmative votes from the 11-member council, but only after a marathon five-hour meeting.

"I truly believe that if the council studies the important role that the museum has played in this city in either economic development or from an educational perspective it will support a responsible level of funding," Ruberto said.

Council President Gerald M. Lee, who also chaired the council three years ago, said he wasn't sure how the council would react when presented with this request.

"I have no idea," he said yesterday. "I haven't spoken to anyone about it. I had a hint that it was coming, but I was surprised.

"(But) the Colonial passed," Lee said, "and at the end of the day I think nobody regretted doing it."

Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi, who has questioned previous proposed allocations from the fund that have come before the council, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The GE Economic Development Fund currently contains an available balance of $4.5 million, city treasurer G. Richard Bordeau said yesterday. An additional $1.6 million is reserved for other projects that have previously been approved. Formed eight years ago as part of the mammoth consent decree that finalized the PCB cleanup settlement, the economic development fund is made up of the $1 million in annual payments that GE is required to pay the city of Pittsfield for the 10 year period dating back to 2000. Bordeau said the city has yet to receive this year's $1 million GE installment.

The city is not required to use the GE Economic Development funds for any specific purpose, but the council so far has granted the biggest expenditures to cultural project/entertainment venues such as the Colonial, Barrington Stage and the Beacon Cinemas. These three projects are also considered to be key to the economic development and revitalization of downtown Pittsfield.

The council approved a $500,000 allocation to the Barrington Stage Company in August 2006. A second $1 million allocation is earmarked for the complex financial plan that was created to fund the yet to be built $12.6 million Beacon Cinemas on North Street. Construction on that project has been delayed, but is expected to begin this year.

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Donor: Mayor James Ruberto, City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Contribution: Updated, Q3/2007, Hillary Clinton, $1,000, 2008
Address: 85 SPADINA PKWY, Pittsfield, MA
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Source: http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=Ruberto
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The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, January 18, 2008

Predatory lending in city

The sub-prime lending scandal, in which greedy, dishonest lenders unfettered by government regulations exploited borrowers and brought banks and other lending institutions to ruin, has fueled the economic woes the White House finally reacted to yesterday. There is ample evidence that residents of Pittsfield were victims of those predatory home-lending practices, and a three-year, $825,000 federal grant will help them, as well as those who are victims of housing discrimination. The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center will use the funds to set up an office in the city from where it can provide assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure and renters victimized by absentee landlords indifferent to maintaining good, affordable housing. Minorities, many of whom have poor English Language skills, are prime targets of economic predators, and with Pittsfield's minority population increasing, the grant money could not have come at a more opportune time.

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Museum is a worthy cause

Though Mayor Ruberto is yet to determine the amount of GE Economic Development Fund money he would like the Pittsfield City Council to authorize for the Berkshire Museum, a good case can be made. The GE money would be used to generate more money, in this case a $500,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation. By raising about $8 million of the $9 million required to get the grant, the museum has proven its financial viability and needs only enough to be put over the top. GE Fund money given to the Colonial Theatre has established a successful precedent. Finally, the museum, a downtown anchor during tough times, has earned the city's help.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"'Hot spot' cools down: An $825,000 grant for the city will be used to help fight housing discrimination"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, January 18, 2008

PITTSFIELD — To investigate allegations of housing discrimination in Berkshire County, the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center has received an $825,000, three-year federal grant, part of which will be used to establish a branch office in Pittsfield.

The city recently became known as a "hot spot" for predatory home lending practices, said former City Councilor Jamie R. Williamson, who is the executive director of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center based in Holyoke.

Interest rates very high

"We've seen interest rates as high as 14 percent," Williamson said. "That's outrageous."

The first year's installment of $275,000 was presented to the Fair Housing Center yesterday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The funding is provided through HUD's fair housing initiative program. Persis Clinton, an equal opportunity specialist for HUD, presented the check to Williamson at City Hall.

The Fair Housing Center will establish its branch office at the Neighborhood Resource Center at 314 Columbus Ave.

Williamson, a Pittsfield native, said that Massachusetts Fair Housing already is operating on a limited basis in Pittsfield but expects to open its office fully by the middle of February.

Will treat cases locally

The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center investigates housing discrimination cases in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester counties.

Over the next three years, it will provide education and outreach workshops for Berkshire County residents, including individuals with limited English proficiency and people with disabilities. Services will be available in both English and Spanish.

"We have had a rise in foreclosures in Pittsfield," said Williamson, who added that the Fair Housing Center has identified 137 agencies that have made housing loans to city residents. "We have to make sure that our residents understand what predatory loans are."

By working with local banks and attorneys, "we have been fortunate enough to prevent revenue foreclosures, which is almost unheard of in the industry," she added.

Massachusetts Fair Housing also plans to contact absentee landlords who own property in some of the city's poorest areas. Some engage in a practice that Williamson termed "equity stripping," which leaves renters in homes that are not taken care of.

"We're working to ensure that landlords give residents safe and affordable housing and make sure they have a decent place to live," Williamson said.

Williamson, the first black woman to serve as an at-large city councilor in Pittsfield, said she has met with Mayor James M. Ruberto to discuss a 50 percent jump in the city's minority and ethnic population over the past 10 years.

"Historically, Pittsfield has been three percent African-American," Williamson said, "while the rest was considered marginal and didn't register on the radar scale. Now we're seeing different nationalities in town."

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"New high school is not the issue"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, January 18, 2008

I would like to thank The Eagle for publishing Edward Udel's op-ed columns. He is a voice of reason writing about an education system awash in politically popular decision-making, misdirected responsibilities and a focus on perception instead of reality.

Secondly, to Mayor Ruberto and The Eagle, just as a state of the art ballpark does not ensure a championship team, a state of the art high school does not address the fundamentals of a successful learning environment. It's not the building and technology that breed successful schools, it's parents, teachers and especially students who do their jobs and are accountable for their actions.

Both of Pittsfield's public high schools have some of the best opportunities in the state. It's up to the students to take advantage of them and for the adults in our community to take pride in them. There are segments from both groups that do neither. Those that don't, have no one to blame but themselves.

JEFF LACATELL
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"City must address affordable housing"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, January 19, 2008

I agree with Gregory Jones' letter to the editor Jan. 12 ("Second homes are taking over city.") Berkshire County is doing nothing to help the long-time residents, just the newcomers. They have decent homes to go to, nice expensive restaurants that fit their wallets and entertainment that they can afford.

The mayor stated he will accommodate decent affordable housing. I wonder who for, as I have been in his office many times to try to see him in reference to repairs to be made in my home. The building I live in is literally sinking inch by inch. I live on the second floor with my husband, whose balance is off due to brain cancer and we feel as if we are walking downhill as soon as we enter the unit. While our needs go unattended and the city caters to the elite, city officials get to sit in their nice level homes.

So as Mr. Jones states, don't get emotional about leaving our city. If I could I would relocate, but the fact of the matter is, we have lived in our place for 6 1/2 years and my husband is dead-set against moving. He deserves stiffer rules about decent housing.

Mayor Ruberto needs to look into the work of his housing and building Inspectors, as they have done nothing about this and yes, I have visited them many times. I am not rich or well known, and to them, us little people don't matter.

CELIA FORTH
Pittsfield

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"Pittsfield High is not a swamp"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I am incensed at continually hearing the lie that Pittsfield High School is physically falling apart. I suppose, it is a case of the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more the populace will come to believe it. Please, citizens of Pittsfield, don't believe a word of this lie, that some cloaked entity seems bent on perpetrating.

It most recently surfaced in the Eagle editorial of Jan. 9, which states that "Pittsfield High School has become the educational version of Wahconah Park, and money spent patching up this structure is money wasted." Now we not only hear the lie from a skewed Eagle eye, but also are told that it is a waste of money to maintain this venerable building! What an insult and careless attitude towards the present school population.

In truth, PHS is a solid structure the likes of which this city could not even begin to construct today. I am told by several sources that PHS is one of the city's best-constructed buildings. It is also one of the most beautiful buildings of its nature in the city, if not the county. One has but to look at the exterior of PHS to see this.

As for the interior, it retains the dignity and understated grandeur that it had when first built in 1931 as a gift to the future generations of Pittsfield. Few schools are as aesthetically pleasing and inspiring to their populaces. Students and staff alike, feel a pride in the actual building, not just the school that inhabits it. New teachers and visitors continually remark as to how lucky we are to work and study at 300 East Street.

When Gov. Deval Patrick sought a place to deliver his campaign speech in Pittsfield, our theater was the first choice, and that was later amended to the front steps of the PHS. The School Committee recently relocated its meetings to our spacious, airy library.

Finally, PHS is in constant use after hours. I walked throughout the entire building, after The Eagle's recent attack, looking for the so-called dilapidation and could find nothing except a small leak and several ceiling tiles in need of replacement — and that was in the new (1975) addition to the school. All that PHS requires is normal maintenance.

But don't take my word for it. Come to PHS's open house on Jan. 30 and see for yourself. Or call the school and the head custodian will be happy to give you a tour to dispel the idiotic lie. We have nothing to hide.

What is the reason for the bald lie that demeans? Conspiracy theorists note that when one covets another's property, a useful (if Machiavellian) ruse is to devalue it to those who have it. But who could possibly want to take PHS away from its appreciative population?

RALPH HAMMANN
Williamstown, Massachusetts
The writer has been teaching at PHS since 1976.

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"[Mayor James M.] Ruberto Has 'Aggressive Agenda' For Pittsfield"
By Jen Thomas - iBerkshires.com - January 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD - As the city prepares to move forward with its cultural renaissance - complemented by plans to begin key revitalization and community development projects - Mayor James M. Ruberto said he's excited about what the future holds.

"I'm excited about everything," Ruberto said in an interview last week. "I was excited [the week before] at the groundbreaking of the new Hospice House and I'll be excited next week when I go to the Second Congregational Church for Martin Luther King's birthday. These are the elements of the work that excited me about the city of Pittsfield and how it will continue to grow and expand as a great place to live and work and play."

Top on Ruberto's list of priorities is the construction of a new high school, one that will offer diverse lessons on one campus.

"My bias is to create schools within a school, a magnet of schools within one campus where we can take advantage of joint areas like cafeterias and libraries but also have individual learning centers. I'm of the mind that the new school should be under one roof, on one campus," the mayor said.

Ruberto said he would be meeting with the project's consultants within the next two weeks as the school's construction moves into the planning phase. As of yet, no concrete plans have been developed and Ruberto said many more public discussions must be had before the city will move forward.

"Already we've had working sessions with a variety of residents to develop a vision statement on the best way education can be delivered to our children," said Ruberto. "This is a discussion the community needs to have. This is a decision the community needs to make."

Ruberto said he would wait until he reviewed the consultant's report before he decided to press forward with any initiative but he did say the city may no longer be in need of two distinct high schools.

"I have a very strong sense we should be dealing with a new facility. Neither of the current buildings really speak to the future," he said of Pittsfield and Taconic highs.

With lowered dropout rates and better scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests, Ruberto said he is proud of the direction the city's students are headed.

"We've had a number of very aggressive initiatives intended to mentor and monitor at-risk youth and we've seen results," the mayor said. "Continuing to invest in education is critical to making Pittsfield a better place to be."

Extending Work Into the Downtown

With major projects slated for the downtown area in 2008, Ruberto said his next priority is working to improve neighborhoods, a feat he hopes to accomplish by encouraging residents to become homeowners.

"We're within a month of going to the City Council and requesting support for a home-rule petition that will provide tax incentives and other considerations to first-time homeowners," he said. "While not glamorous, this initiative is vital to the revitalization of the city."

In his inaugural address at the beginning of the year, Ruberto said he would support innovative ideas that have proved successful in other communities.

"For far too long, we have been far too patient, waiting for bold ideas from various Boston bureaucracies to help us reinvent the West Side and Morningside sections of our city," he said then. "It is high time we borrow from successful best practices pioneered in other states, different ways of motivating hundreds of renters to become property owners, with each of their residences representing a foothold toward an improved neighborhood."

This year, the city will see Phases 1 and 2 of the Streetscape Project begun as major sidewalk and road improvements will transform South and North streets, including an eventual rerouting of traffic in the treacherous Park Square rotary.

The $12.9 million Beacon Cinema project on North Street will also break ground this year and the city will continue to invest in public arts projects like last year's Art of the Game and Hayman! ventures.

"When you walk down North Street, you can see what's happening in the city of Pittsfield - there's a tremendous amount of energy. The renaissance is on very, very solid footing and it will not be derailed," said the mayor.

Ruberto also said he would work to see some of the General Electric Economic Development Funds routed to the Berkshire Museum, one of the city's crown jewels.

"The museum is part of the cultural array that the city offers not only to its own residents but also for those from outside its community," said Ruberto, noting that the museum draws 85,000 people to its doors annually.

The museum galleries are closed until March as it undergoes a major renovation and addition project.

"First and foremost, the Berkshire Museum is an incredible community resource. Second, it's a key ingredient in the education of our youth. Third, it's a solid economic driver for the city," he added.

Seeking Results

Four years ago, residents weren't willing to hold community conversations about the future of the city but thanks to hard work and dedication, everyone has the opportunity to make their voices heard, said Ruberto.

"There's no such thing as a magic wand. Four years ago, we were in a much different place and, now, I can say the infrastructure of the community has improved through hard work, collaboration, understanding and support. We're doing now what we couldn't do before and what was once only a dream is now a reality. People have come to believe in the community and the potential it has," he said.

Calling his 2008 plans "an aggressive agenda," Ruberto said he fully intends to show the people of the city that he wants results.

"We're moving ideas and concepts into planning phases and that will yield results. Every element fills a need that is required for us to become the best small city in the Northeast," Ruberto said.

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"Hearing the message: Church holds celebration of opportunities"
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, January 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Rev. Leonard Comithier, pastor of First Macedonia Church in Albany, N.Y., told the audience at Second Congregational Church yesterday that, "When I'm the only black man at an event, I always wonder where the other 20 million (black men) are."

"We cannot, and will not, be satisfied until there are equal opportunities for everyone in this nation, regardless of race, color or gender," he said.

Comithier, who also is a former pastor at Second Congregational, was the principal speaker at the annual Community Celebration of the Life and Spirit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About 80 people were in attendance at the ceremony, which marks the 40th anniversary of King's death.

"We mark these days to remember King as a drum major for peace," Comithier said.

"The world seems so messed up," he said. "There is war in the Eastern Hemisphere, and economic strife in the Western Hemisphere. But that's all right. It is only when it's dark enough that you can see all the stars.

"People have begun to hold other people accountable for their deeds. Determined people are people who believe that God can disarm anyone."

Speaking of King, Comithier recounted how, when he traveled to Alabama, he saw black people being struck by water from high-powered fire hoses wielded by the local police.

"But what the police did not know is there is a certain kind of fire that water cannot put out."

Comithier praised his fellow clergy at the altar and spoke fondly of Mayor James M. Ruberto, who also was in attendance.

"I do not say this jokingly," he said. "You don't see too many city officials coming to our service and staying until the end. We get a phone call from all these press secretaries who say, 'Well, he's coming, but he has to leave early.' My goodness, this holiday comes but once a year. You'd think having 364 days to prepare would be enough."

He also praised Second Congregational Church "for continuing to take a leadership role in this community. I thank everyone here in this room for that."

Ruberto, in his welcoming remarks, took a similar path.

"Your love is powerful medicine," he told those in the pews. "It demonstrates loudly and clearly that faith and truth and belief will drive the future of this city and drive the work we do to build a better community.

"We know we need to do more, but we are going in a positive direction to continue the legacy of Dr. King."

Master of ceremonies for the event was Churchill Cotton. Prior to the oratory, several members of the congregation repeated quotes from some of King's speeches. In addition, there were several musical selections.

The highlight of the afternoon — musically — was a rendition of "Precious Lord" by Sharon Meyer of Albany, who was accompanied by organist Judy Pratt.

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"Fair Housing Center Awarded 3-Year Grant"
iBerkshires.com - January 20, 2008

PITTSFIELD – The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center, the city's newest tenant at the Pittsfield Neighborhood Resource Center, has received an $825,000, three-year performance based grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grant, funded through HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program, will be used to investigate allegations of housing discrimination in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester counties. Focusing on minority and immigrant communities in particular, MFHC will conduct fair housing workshops, first time homebuyer, and predatory lending training sessions.

"The success of Pittsfield’s revitalization efforts must include striking a balance between the needs of the business community with the needs of its citizens and housing is one of the most basic needs," said Mayor James M. Ruberto. "Mass Fair Housing has many of the same ideas and goals that were outlined in my inaugural address, including turning renters into first-time home buyers."

Over the next three years, MFHC will provide education and outreach workshops for the public, including individuals with limited English proficiency and persons with disabilities about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act in order to promote equal housing opportunities.

According to Kim Kendrick, HUD's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, "Today's announcement is another step toward ensuring that residents of central and Western Massachusetts have equal access to safe and affordable housing."

HUD awarded 88 grants totaling $17.1 million to recipients in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-Nine of HUD's more than 100 FHIP agencies are high performers and will receive multiyear funding.

"This funding will allow us to expand our services in Berkshire County in order to educate first-time home buyers and homeowners of the potential pitfalls of predatory loans," said Jamie Williamson, executive director of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center. "We are looking forward to working with the mayor to improve neighborhoods and creating safe and affordable housing in the city of Pittsfield."

The Pittsfield Neighborhood Resource Center is at 314 Columbus Ave. For more information, www.massfairhousing.org.

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The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, January 23, 2008
"Progress in drug war"

A three-week-old crackdown against Pittsfield cocaine dealers has already resulted in a dozen arrests and about $10,000 in illegal drugs, and should make a serious dent in the drug trade that has long afflicted the city. A joint operation of the Pittsfield Police Department Drug Unit and the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, the crackdown also involves several other agencies in the effort to combat drugs. Unlike the Baran case, this operation directly benefits county residents and merits the time and skills of law enforcement officials.

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"Nurses' switch is made official"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, January 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Completing a process that began 10 months ago, the School Committee last night approved the transfer of the city's 14 school nurse positions from the Health Department to the Pittsfield public schools.

All seven board members voted in favor of the transfer which had been under consideration since an ad hoc committee was formed last March. The City Council in December had also approved the transfer pending the School Committee's approval.

On academic calendar

The transfer means that the 13 school nurses and their leader, Suzanne Teutsch, will be placed on an academic calendar similar to that of the city's teachers. Under the Health Department, school nurses had been required to collect unemployment during the summer months, but could take vacations during the academic year.

The city came to an agreement last fall with the nurses collective bargaining unit that will be in effect until Aug. 31. That contract has also been transferred to the School Committee's jurisdiction.

"The city renegotiated the contract," said Mayor James M. Ruberto, an ex-officio member of the School Committee. "All the assets have been transferred to the School Department.

Budget has items covered

"Contract and compensation are not an issue," Ruberto said, in answer to a question from board member Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. "It's currently in the city budget."

Health Director Laura Kittross said 13 of the 14 school nurse positions are full-time. Three of those positions are grant funded; the 11 others are paid for by the city.

"It would be wonderful to have more nurses," she said. "But this is enough to satisfy the health of the students."

According to Teutsch, Pittsfield's school nurses have been under the city's auspices for more than 20 years. In 1993, the state allowed school nurses to be placed under the authority of local school boards. Teutsch said 96 percent of the state's school districts currently have that arrangement.

"There's been a dramatic change in our role which has become a more complex role to meet student's needs," Teutsch said during the public comment period.

She said over 2,000 students throughout the Pittsfield public schools visited school nurses in December. The nurses also deal with a variety of special education students who have chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

"We want to serve the community and I think the best place is in the School Department," she said.

Scott Eldridge, president of the United Educators of Pittsfield, which represents some 500 city teachers, also urged the School Committee to support the move so that the teachers and nurses can codify their responsibilities and be on the same page.

"The teachers of all the schools that I've spoken to recognize the nurses as a major and important part of the school community," Eldridge said.

Former City Council member Tricia Farley-Bouvier said the ad hoc committee was formed to develop a consensus on the proposed transfer.

"We didn't need to build a consensus," she said. "The consensus was already there...There was a lot of concern but all of those things we were able to work through."

"After several meetings and discussions," school nurse Joan Roy said, "it was determined that this was really the best thing for the nurses to do."

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224

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"Exploring insurance options"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, January 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council has approved the formation of an ad hoc committee to explore whether Pittsfield should join the Group Insurance Commission, which administers health benefits to state employees and retirees.

State municipalities recently became eligible to join the GIC, which was formed by the state Legislature in 1955. The pros and cons of Pittsfield joining the GIC were discussed by Holly Taylor of True North Financial Services, the city's health insurance broker, when she appeared before the City Council on Jan. 8.

The city could initially save several million dollars by joining the GIC, Taylor said. But those savings could vanish due to the cost of getting all 18 city unions to sign on to the plan.

The GIC also has higher co-pays than those available in Pittsfield's current health plan, and different networks, Taylor said.

The council voted 10-1 in favor of forming the ad hoc committee on Tuesday night, with Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio in opposition. Noting that retirees make up 50 percent of those currently enrolled in the city's health insurance plan, Maffuccio said he believed a representative of that group, possibly the chairman of the retirement board, should be included on the ad hoc committee.

The ad hoc committee will be made up of four city councilors, city Treasurer G. Richard Bordeau, Personnel Director David Battistoni, and a representative from Mayor James M. Ruberto's office.

Ward 3 Councilor Linda M. Tyer, who co-sponsored the petition, said the committee doesn't plan to study how the specific health plans offered by the GIC will affect retirees' benefits.

"This is a very preliminary step in deciding whether we want to make a change," she said.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, the petition's other sponsor, said he envisions the committee looking at numbers, enrollment, and cost structures to determine whether a move to the GIC is feasible.

"This is a short-term, limited-duration group," he said.

If the ad hoc committee determines that a switch to the GIC is beneficial for Pittsfield, another group could be formed to consider that option, Lothrop said.

"We're not proposing anything specific," he added. "This is just data collection."

Councilor-at-large Peter M. Marchetti, who is also chairman of the finance subcommittee, suggested a member of the school department be included on the committee.

"When we're talking about employees and trends I think we need someone from the school side at the table," he said.

Tyer said the committee meetings would be open to the public and that any current or retired city employees would be welcome to participate.

Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi said he believed the mayor's office was already looking into this matter. "I'd hate to see redundancy here," he said.

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"Wynn made official captain"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, January 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Due to an unusual set of circumstances, Michael J. Wynn was named the temporary head of the Pittsfield Police Department in November before he had officially attained the rank of captain.

Wynn finally shed his status as an "acting captain" this week night, when the City Council formally approved the 12-year department veteran's permanent appointment to that position.

A Williams College graduate, Wynn became the Police Department's acting administrative captain in July when he replaced retiring 39-year department veteran John T. O'Neil. But Wynn couldn't be appointed a permanent captain until O'Neil's retirement was official. That didn't occur until Dec. 29.

In October, Police Chief Anthony J. Riello announced that he would be leaving Pittsfield to become the new police chief in Falmouth. On Nov. 27, Mayor James M. Ruberto appointed Wynn to run the department until a permanent replacement for Riello could be found. Wynn officially became the Police Department's "captain-in-charge" on Dec. 1, the day that Riello took over as Falmouth's police chief.

Wynn's appointment, one of 10 to various city positions that were approved by the City Council on Tuesday night, was met with applause by the council's 11 members.

"I wanted you to know how impressed we are with your background," said Ward 3 Councilor Linda M. Tyer of Wynn, who is a 1988 Taconic High School graduate.

Wynn attended the Naval Academy before graduating from Williams, where he captained the wrestling team, in 1993. He also received a masters degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College in Paxton in 2001. Wynn won awards for academic excellence and survival Spanish while attending the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Academy in Agawam in 1995 and 1996, and has received several departmental commendations.

"You have a long range of experience and we're looking forward to supporting your appointment," Tyer said.

"That's the last time you're going to get off this easy," Council President and former city police chief Gerald M. Lee said jokingly to Wynn.

The council also approved the re-appointments of Susan Carmel as city accountant, Colleen Hunter-Mullet as purchasing agent, Philip Adamo as city physician, and Marilyn W. Sheehan as tax collector. Sheehan is in her 41st year as a city employee.

In other business, petitions seeking recommendations for improvements to Pittsfield's sidewalk snow removal program, and the regulation of the speed of plows clearing snow on city streets, were referred to the council's public works and utilities subcommittee for further review.

Ruberto presented proclamations to Pittsfield's outgoing Americorps Vista volunteers Brittany Berman and Kristen Luttinen that thanked them for their service.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224

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Pittsfield Fire Department
"Grant paves the way for new ladder truck"
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, February 01, 2008

Thanks to a $675,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Pittsfield Fire Department is set to replace its 34-year-old aerial ladder truck.

State officials announced the grant today in the newest wave of funding to strengthen the nation's fire response system.

Fire Chief James C. Sullivan Jr. said the money, which is allocated specifically for a new truck, deferred comment to the City of Pittsfield.

"This new piece of firefighting equipment will greatly enhance the firefighting capabilities of the Pittsfield Fire Department and provide a much greater level of protection for the citizens," said Mayor James M. Ruberto, who thanked Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Sen. John F. Kerry and U.S. Rep. John W. Olver for their assistance in obtaining the grant.

The Dalton Fire Department also received a $107,098 grant, which Chief Richard D. Kardasen said would be used to purchase new protective gear and breathing equipment.

"It's all about firefighter safety," said Kardasen. "As chief, my main concern is making sure that all of my people go home after a call. This will ensure the safety and well-being of our firefighters."

Kennedy said the grants will play a vital role the assurance of safety for both communities.

"By helping the fire department purchase needed new equipment, we're guaranteeing the resources to do their job effectively and keep our communities safe," he said in a statement. "We owe the brave men and women of the fire department an immense debt for their extraordinary service."

This award is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to strengthen the preparedness of first responders across the country to deal with fires and other emergencies.

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To reach Amy Carr: acarr@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6233.

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Gov. Deval Patrick reads in kindergarten.
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http://mail.pittsfield.net/AllendaleES/
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"Patrick Touts Education Plan at Allendale"
By Tammy Daniels -iBerkshires.com- February 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD - Gov. Deval Patrick chose Allendale Elementary School on Thursday to tout his ambitious education spending plan that includes full-day kindergarten, extended learning time and $223 million more in Chapter 70 funding to cities and towns.

The investment is worth it, said Patrick, for the students, for economic development and for quality of life in the state. He again called on the Legislature to push through his education and economic initiatives.

"It's about the importance of considering in this and all other cases the cost of inaction," said the governor, repeating a theme from his State of the Commonwealth speech last week. "What it means if we don't take advantage of some of the opportunities in front of us."

Patrick's brief comments to the media followed a visit to several classrooms at Allendale to see pupils and teachers at work.

Sitting on the floor with Nancy Knauth's kindergarten class, the governor learned a few words along with children in his circle and took his turn in reading aloud from "Peg the Hen."

In Marcia Cassavant's third-grade class, the children each recited a stanza of the state's official poem, "Blue Hills of Massachusetts" by Katherine E. Mullen, to the governor. The school had only found out Wednesday that he was coming, said Cassavant, so the children had worked very hard to memorize the verses.

They made it through with only a few stumbles, and four of the children recited their "I Have a Dream" for making the world a better place. Hope Daniels, who is visually impaired, presented Patrick with a card and bracelet with the help of classmate Rachel Martindale.

It was all work in Susan Dabson's class. The fourth-graders showed Patrick how they worked through a problem using three different methods. "And you all come up with same answer?" asked the governor. Oh yes, they assured him.

While the governor was interested in their lessons and whether they liked what they were doing, some of the children were more interested in getting his autograph than asking him questions.

Fourth-grader Matt Barry got a double coup when Patrick signed a picture of himself signing Matt's arm cast at last year's Fourth of July Parade.

"I was playing soccer and fell down and twisted my arm," explained Matt as he carefully placed the 8x10 into an envelope. The cast is long gone, but the autograph remains.

The pupils lined the halls as Patrick walked out, occasionally stopping to shake hands or say word or two to a particular child.

"The time he spent in this school, you can't put a price on that," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, adding that maybe there were kids who didn't know the heights they could reach in life before the governor came through.

It's "remarkable young people" like these that the administration's initiatives are designed to help succeed, said Patrick.

"There will be those who say that it is money we should not spend," he said. "But consider for every poor kid who has an opportunity to experience high-preK, they are 40 less likely to need special education services or repeat a grade, 30 percent more likely to graduate high school and twice as likely to graduate from college.

"If we invest on the front end we save substantially on the back end."

His education plan also includes creating an Executive Office of Education headed by a secretary of education that will, Patrick said, provide a more coherent policy coordination from prekindergarten through college.

Also in the spending plan is a $368 million increase in overall funding and $3.9 billion in Chapter 70 education aid. He proposes investing another $5.5 million for underperforming schools and districts and an additional $2 million toward MCAS support programs. There is funding to help high school students gain college credits, $234 million for the Circuit Breaker fund to alleviate special education costs and $81.7 million for charter school reimbursements.

Beyond education, Patrick said initiatives such as the $1 billion life science bill and $25 million broadband bill will drive investment and help the state become at least "recession resistant."

Legislative leaders, while open to the governor's education program, have balked at his budgeting of $300 million in licensing fees for casinos that do not yet exist.

Patrick said part of the fees would fill a one-time gap in lottery aid to cities and towns; the budget is balanced on a half billion in cuts in other areas and the closing of corporate loopholes.

"I am calling on the Legislature to engage with us," he said. "We have put ideas on the table. If you have better ideas, bring them to the table."

Mayor James Ruberto said he was "particularly pleased" with the governor's plans for Chapter 70 aid, and for a municipal act that would allow cities and towns to set meals and hotels taxes.

"The municipal act offers an opportunity to try to move revenue streams in other directions than on property owners," he said. As for gambling, "I think Palmer is a great place to put a casino - and send the money back to Pittsfield."

Downing said there was a need to work together for the benefit of all.

Patrick wrapped up his visit with a grilling from two fifth-graders chosen to ask questions that their class had worked on.

"Don't hide your light under a barrel," he told Megan Pedersen after she asked what one thing he would say them. It was an expression, he explained to her that his grandmother often used. "Let that passion out, make the most of your opportunities and let people see what you care about."

But Thomas Koslaw made him pause, for the young boy asked what Patrick wanted to be remembered for once he was out of office.

"That's a hard question. ... What you're really asking ... is what I want my legacy to be," said Patrick, who is beginning his second year in office.

"I hope it is, in general, that the people of Massachusetts, including the young people of Massachusetts, have raised their own expectations of themselves in education ... and the way we act as members of the commonwealth."
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He (Governor Deval Patrick) greets Hope Daniels, center, and Rachel Martindale.
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Solving problems.
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Matt Barry gets another autograph.
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Thomas Koslaw takes a picture.
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"Ruberto collects $36,442"
The Pittsfield Gazette, 20 SEPTEMBER, 2007

During the first eight months of 2008, James Ruberto raised $36,442 for his campaign war chest. Ruberto’s total dwarfs the combined total of all other candidates for municipal office.

Mayoral challengers Stephen Fillio and Donna Walto both reported no fundraising or expenditures in campaign finance forms that candidates were required to file by Monday.

Ruberto reported spending $4,552 during the eight-month period, leaving him with a balance of $67,029. Virtually all of Ruberto’s fundraising came from big donors, those who must be individually listed. He collected just $100 in donations of $50 or less.

The list here indicates the donor, residence if not Pittsfield and amount of donation ($500 is the maximum).

Osmin and Monica Alvarez, Williamstown 200
Joan Bancroft, Lenox 500
Alf Barbalunga, 250
John Barmack 100
David and Pamela Bissaillon, Adams 100
John and Melissa Bissell 500
Joan Callahan, Williamstown 300
Maruice Callahan Jr. 300
James Canavan, North Adams 250
Charlies Cardillo 100
Joseph Cardillo 500
Wende and David Carver, Williamstown 500
Stuart Chase, Lanesboro 250
David Cianflone 500
Michael Coakley, Lenox 250
Leonard Cohen 500
W. Kelly Collins 250
David Comalli 500
Steven Como 250
Steven Conroy 150
C. Jeffrey Cook 500
David Crane, Dalton 500
Don Davis 250
Remo and Bertha DelGallo 500
Eugene Dellea, West Stockbridge 500
Mario and Sandra DeMartino, Lanesboro 200
John Derosa 500
Linda Diehl 100
John Disantis, Hinsdale 500
Judith Disantis, Hinsdale 500
Evan Dobelle, Boston 500
Mariann Dolphin 500
Michael Dolphin 500
John Donwing 250
Brian Fairbank, Hancock 300
Tyler Fairbank 100
Armand Feigenbaum 500
Donald Feigenbaum 500
Ralph Frisna 250
Barbara Garrity, Lee 500
Emil George 250
John George 500
Ronald Griffin, Dalton 500
Sherwood Guernsey, Williamstown 250
Thomas Hamel 250
Paula Hardin, Yarmouthport 500
John Herman 200
Adam Hersch 500
Jennifer Hersch 500
Jennifer and William Jr. Hines 500
Mary Ellen Hines 500
William Hines 500
Stuart Hirshfield, New York 500
Kurt Hospot 500
John Howard Bellingham 500
Gray Johnson 150
Richard Kielman 500
Randall Kinnas 100
Michael Kirchner 500
Nicole Knight 250
Amy Kroboth 500
Joseph Kroboth 500
Thomas Laureyns 500
Frances Laurin 500
Frances and Theresa Laurin 500
Thomas Laurin, Castleton 500
Christopher Light 500
Jennifer and Michael Lyon 250
Michael Macdonald 500
Elizabeth Macksey, Cheshire 100
Anthony Massimiano 250
William Murray 75
Kenneth and Suzanne Nash 250
Cliff Nilan 500
Mark Nuciforo 500
Andrea Nuciforo Jr. 500
Geoffrey Patti 200
Basil Petricca 500
Perri Petricca 500
David Phelps 500
Sheppard Rainie Sharon 100
Marshall and Marian Raser 500
Paul Raverta, West Springfield 100
Anthony Rizzo Jr. 250
Linda Ruberto 500
James Scalise, Dalton 500
Carol Scarafoni 500
Gary Scarafoni 500
Martin Schwartz 100
Mark and Elizabeth Selkowitz 200
Sydney Smithers Pownal 100
Patrick Spencer 500
Margery Stienberg, West Hartford 100
Angelo Stracuzzi 500
Phillip Watson, Great Barrington 250
George Whaling 150

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"Latest Ruberto donors listed"
The Pittsfield Gazette, 24.JANUARY.2008

Donors to the campaign of Mayor James Ruberto during the final reporting period of 2007, which covered October 20 through December 31.

Ruberto raised $14,417 during the period. Individual donors of $50 or more must be listed on campaign forms. All addresses are Pittsfield unless specified.

Ruberto’s opponent, Donna Walto, reported no receipts during the period.
Donations from earlier 2007 campaign reporting periods are listed separately on www.pittsfieldgazette.com

John Armstrong $100
Donald Atwater, Dalton $150
Ermino Barbalunga, Dalton $500
Alan Bauman $100
Joyce Bernstein, New Marlboro $500
Teresa and Eric Biss $100
Syd Blatt, Vero Beach, FL $250
James Bridges, Bonita Springs, FL $200
Frank and Patricia Burno $100
Maurice Callahan Jr. $200
Charlie Cardillo, Richmond $100
Penelope and John Cardonnel $100
James Carlo $100
Timothy Carlo $500
Arthur Catalano $100
Edward Chagnon, Dalton $100
Michael Christopher $250
Deborah and W. Kelly Collins $100
Louis and Joy Costi $100
James and Thomas Ditello $100
John Donna $100
Virginia DuBois $100
John Dullaghan, Great Barrington $100
Nancy Fitzpatrick, Stockbridge $250
Gary Grunin $100
George Haddad $400
Shari Haddad $400
Lee Harrison, Williamstown $100
Michael Hashim Jr. $200
Philip & Anita Heller, Stockbridge $150
Thomas Hickey Jr. $100
Al Ingegni Jr. $250
Gary Johnson $100
Terrie Kahn $250
David Keator, Lenox $100
Peter and Roberta Lafayette $100
Jennifer Lander $100
Peter Larkin $250
Richard and Jane Laureyns $250
Leonard Lipton $250
Sandford Lipton $250
Francis and Marianne Marinaro $100
James Maxymillian $250
Lorinda & Thomas Mazur, Richmond $100
Barbara Milensky $100
James J. Mooney $100
William Mulholland, Becket $100
Alan Murphy $100
Lance Northwood $100
John C. O’Brien $100
James Penna, Washington $250
Rosaland Petricca $250
Steven Picheny, Great Barrington $100
Scott Pignatelli, Lenox $100
Christopher and Paula Porter $250
John Powers $100
Robert Proskin, Dalton $100
Janet Pumphrey, Lenox $100
Mary Rentz $100
Paul and Betty Rich $250
Donna & Donald Rochelo, Dalton $250
Linda Ruberto $100
Jack Rubin $100
Deanna Ruffer $100
Michael Ryan, Lenox $250
Whitney Selke $100
Carole Siegel $100
James J. Smith $100
Ellen Spear $100
Sally Spina $200
Richard Stanley, South Egremont $500
John Stark $100
James Sullivan Jr. $100
Richard and Ingrid Taylor, Lenox $100
Michael Thomas, Becket $100
Del and Jane Virgilio $250
David Ward, Hinsdale $250
Alexandra Warshaw $100
Richard and Shirley Whitehead $100
Steven and Nancy Wiehl $200
Ralph Young $100

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"Mayor proposes 2.75 percent salary hikes"
The Pittsfield Gazette, 24.JANUARY.2008

The ordinances & rules subcommittee will review a proposal from Mayor James Ruberto to award 2.75 percent retroactive salary increases to City Hall managers and “exempt” employees.

Ruberto wants the raises to be effective July 1, 2007.

The new annual salary scale for managers would range from $37,652 to $82,371 depending on a position’s classification and the employee’s years of service.

The exempt employee group includes a range of positions such as clerks, purchasing buyer, mayoral assistants, RSVP employees and detention matron.
For the airport manager, the new annual salary scale would range fro $47,859 to $55,300.

For the assistant clerk of registrations and elections, the new scale would range from $29,599 to $34,360. For the mayor’s executive assistant, the new scale would range from $31,563 to $36,427. For park security officers, the new scale for hourly work would range from $8.18 to $11.12.

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"Do rules, laws apply to mayor?"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Pittsfield Parks Commission is supposed to be a five member board. Currently there are only four people on the board. How long is the mayor of Pittsfield going to be allowed to be in violation of the city charter on this matter? Rules were put in place for people in his position to follow, not to flaunt.

There is also the matter of fire chief to consider. I believe that the mayor is in violation of state law by not having a permanent chief in place within a preset amount of time from the last fire chief retiring. Do the laws of the city and state apply to everyone but the mayor of our city? I wonder.

JIM GLEASON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Tammy Barnini, Pittsfield, MA, 2/6/2008 -
The PFD Union is a Joke! How can you have a "Chief" who is a union member. Isn't that a conflict of interest. It is interesting however that the "Acting Chief" donated 100.00 dollars to the mayors campaign.(see Pittsfield Gazzete)
Several members studied hard, spent money on books and test fees, only have to have the Mayor fail to appoint a qualified Chief off of the Civil Service list. The Union doesnt push the issue because because they are content in their ways. The emperor is naked, he has no clothes. See ya'll at Spice for a Burger and beer!

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Anonymous, 2/6/2008 -
Jim, all I can tell you is to contact the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission. They will be able to tell you the time limit on when the Mayor's suppose to hire a fire chief. Also, if the FD has a union or an association, where are they? They are the ones who should be screaming to the civil service board.

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"Pittsfield High incidents on rise"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, February 15, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Russell Quetti, Pittsfield High School resource officer, investigated 15 complaints at the school between September and December, the same number of incidents that were looked into the entire previous school year, the Police Department's acting leader said yesterday.

Michael J. Wynn, the department's captain in charge, said that complaints can range from disturbances to disorderly conduct to drug offenses to assaults.

"In talking to Officer Quetti, the reported cases that he's investigated are up slightly," Wynn said, referring to the rate of complaints this school year, which ends in June. "But as far as if the schools are more violent, I don't know."

Quetti, who also is a Pittsfield police officer, declined to comment.

The Police Department released the figures from Quetti's report yesterday in response to queries regarding comments about violence at the high school that were contained in a letter written by Pittsfield High School senior Victoria Simon.

In the letter, published on the opinion pages of yesterday's Berkshire Eagle, Simon referred to an incident that occurred at the school on Feb. 7.

The incident resulted in two girls being transported to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment.

"Blood, tears, racism and pure hatred stain the hallways of Pittsfield High School," Simon wrote. "The place I walked into this September was not the same school I have known and loved for the past four years.

"The events have long since crossed the line from typical public school fights to a serious safety issue. I assure you any attempts to minimize the 2007-2008 events at Pittsfield High have been merely an attempt to pacify you."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Simon said she had been thinking about writing a letter for a long time but had "kind of been biting my tongue."

"It just seems to be kind of endless, on and on," she said. "Part of the problem is that things seem to be minimized, and that isn't the way to address the issue."

Simon's stepfather, William Bateman, said, "What she said to me is that it seems like there's a fight every day there."

Simon said yesterday that several students and teachers at Pittsfield High thanked her for "speaking up."

"I'm not blaming the school administration," she said. "But they want to pretend the problem isn't there."

Pittsfield High Vice Principal Frank Cote and Dean of Students Joseph Benjamin, both of whom were mentioned in Simon's letter, deferred comment to the school's acting principal, Anne Beauregard.

Beauregard said yesterday that she has never spoken with Simon and that she was not pleased with her letter. She characterized the student's comments as "inaccurate."

Beauregard said there were more fights at Pittsfield High School in November than there usually are, but that the administration had changed the way it responded to those incidents. Last week's confrontation was an "isolated incident," she said.

"We do a darn good job of responding," she said. "When something happens, we respond quickly and appropriately. ... It's a safe place, and we want to keep it that way."

Howard J. Eberwein III, assistant superintendent of Pittsfield's public schools, said he has been involved in every disciplinary case that has occurred at PHS, adding that the School Department has responded to any acts of violence at the school "very aggressively."

"We're very confident with the plan that we use," said Eberwein, who served as Pittsfield High's principal from 2003 until last July. "The perception of the school in my opinion is not accurate."

According to Quetti's report, he investigated 21 complaints at Pittsfield High during the 2003-04 school year, 11 in the 2004-05 year, 19 in 2005-06, and 15 last year.

"My reaction is clear: One incident like this is one incident too many," said Mayor James M. Ruberto, an ex-officio member of the Pittsfield School Committee.

Ruberto said he has spoken with Wynn about having the school resource officers compile more detailed reports.

"Anytime a student feels at risk for his or her own personal safety, it is high time that we take it seriously — and we are," Ruberto said.

According to people familiar with the Feb. 7 incident, it began in the school cafeteria when a white girl addressed a black girl with a racial slur. The black girl left, and the white girl went about her business. A shove was reported when a second black girl approached the white girl about what had been said, and a physical altercation broke out.

Both girls were separated and taken to the main office, where their parents were called to take them home. While the white girl was being escorted out of the school, a third black girl attempted to strike her. After the attempted strike, the white girl fell to the ground. Whether she slipped or was knocked to the ground has yet to be determined by the police.

An ambulance was called to take her to Berkshire Medical Center for treatment. Her condition was not disclosed.

Shortly after the first incident occurred, the first black girl suffered an anxiety attack in the basement of Pittsfield High. She also was taken to BMC for treatment.

The incident is still under investigation by Pittsfield Police.

After the incident, Wynn said that the Police Department met with School Department officials to discuss what had taken place. Quetti has been receiving assistance from another patrol officer stationed outside the high school. The Police Department has offered the School Department additional assistance, Wynn said.

"We didn't really feel that was necessary," Beauregard said. ... "An increase in the police presence wouldn't have prevented what happened (last week)."

Asked whether there is a racial problem at Pittsfield High, Wynn said: "I can only go on what I was told during the meeting, and people said they believe it's an isolated incident."

Wynn said, however, that Quetti's investigation into another fight that took place at the school in January "leads us to believe that it may have been gang-related."

In a story published last July, Quetti told The Eagle that he saw more evidence of gang-related activity at Pittsfield High during the 2006-07 school year than at any other point during his tenure.

"It's a small piece of the school population, but still ... it's a concern," Quetti said.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com.
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COMMENTS:
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Slim Shady
AOL Reply »
|Report Abuse |#1 9 hrs ago
Michael Wynn and Russ Quetti couldn't solve a problem if it were to bite them in the face, Wynn can't lead the police hes just a coward, yes man so to speak for the mayor, Russ Quetti is just a dweeb plain and simple.........
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Stan
AOL Reply »
|Report Abuse |#2 6 hrs ago
It is sad that the school administrators many who make more than $100,000 a year cannot control students.When I went to Pittsfield High you showed respect the teachers. It is time to find people to run Pittsfield High that can do the job. I am sure there are many qualified people out there.
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meghan
Chesterfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#3 5 hrs ago
when is enough, enough. as a parent, i send my children to school thinking its a safe place. now we as parents need to question that, espically in the wake of the shootings in other states in the past few days. make our schools a safe place.
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ARPAINT
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#4 5 hrs ago
WE CANT CONTROL THE STUDENTS IN ONE HIGH SCHOOL AND THE MAYOR WANTS TO PUT THE POPULATION OF 2 SCHOOLS IN ONE BUILDING.
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pat
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#5 5 hrs ago
The comments made by Victoria in her article we not "inaccurte." Everything said in the article was true and is what most PHS students have wanted to say for a long time. Asa present student at PHS i see what is said in the halls and what happens. Beauregard says that the administration responds quickly to incidents, but that does nothing unless these students are severly punished.
To add, The administration is more concered about graffitti in the bathrooms, which has led to 1(ONE!) mens bathroom being open for an estimated half the school to use.
Also, some of these students havent been expelled from phs because the admin. is afraid that he dropout rate will rise, yes...they dont want the dropou rate to rise so they dont expell these trouble-maker students.
It seems like everything is being covered up, or being played off as "not that serious."
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Llp
West Chesterfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#6 4 hrs ago
It is sad to see the administration basically stating that a student "lied" about what she witnesses in her school. Students witness alot more than administration is willing to admit they see on a day to day basis. I am happy that my son attends Taconic and I worry that they want to combine the two high schools when they can not control the behavior of students in one of the schools. My oldest will be long out of the school if and when they combine but I worry about my youngest when it is his time to attend high school will he have to worry about his safety when he should be more concerned about academics? I think that it is high time the administration admits there is a problem, once they have done that then and only then will it be dealt with and taken care of.
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Swinson
Joined: Fri Feb 1
Comments: 35
New Brunswick
ISP Location: Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#7 4 hrs ago
Why is it that parents never want to take responsibility for their children? It's always the fault of the school administrator, the fault of the police, the fault of the teachers...never is it the fault of the parents.
I agree that all share some responsibility, I'm not sure how the newest interim police chief can be to blame, this has been going on for some time...it's not like Riello retired and now there's a problem...there was a problem when Riello was a lowly DARE officer but more to the point, where are the parents in all this?
The school has you kid for 1/3 of the day, where are you for the other two thirds. Behavior, proper socialization, values, and dare I say morals start at home.
This problem what get solved until the parents start supporting the school administrators and teachers and police. Too often a parent, when confronted with the egregious behavior of their child will say "ohh my son/daughter is a good kid,(s)he wouldn't do anything like that"...wake up you kid is a borderline **** either get with the program or home school your kid. You can't expect the school and the police to do your job...well I guess you can but then again you are part of the problem.
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Seneca
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#8 4 hrs ago
"Their parents send us the best they have."
While it is tempting to blame administrators and teachers and police for all problems, wiser and sharper heads look to the family and the community. Pittsfield has changed a great deal; many students at PHS live with one parent, many live with brothers and sisters, and some seem to run wild.
All school discipline is predicated on communication with parents. If parents don't care about violence, attendance, grades, or truancy, kids won't either. And if there are no parents, then it falls to us and the courts.
Pittsfield has a jaw-dropping drop-out rate and continues to have a remarkable teen pregnancy rate. Neither of those issues come from boring Phys Ed classes, the failure for the school to teach competitive text messaging, or advanced battle techniques in Halo 3.
We, as Americans, have been turning to the schools to do the parenting that we no longer have the time or the energy for. Look to your homes and look to your kids.
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Trish
Ballston Spa, NY Reply »
|Report Abuse |#9 3 hrs ago
Swinson wrote:
Why is it that parents never want to take responsibility for their children? It's always the fault of the school administrator, the fault of the police, the fault of the teachers...never is it the fault of the parents.
I agree that all share some responsibility,..it's not like Riello retired and now there's a problem...there was a problem when Riello was a lowly DARE officer but more to the point, where are the parents in all this?
The school has you kid for 1/3 of the day, where are you for the other two thirds. Behavior, proper socialization, values, and dare I say morals start at home.
This problem what get solved until the parents start supporting the school administrators and teachers and police. Too often a parent, when confronted with the egregious behavior of their child will say "ohh my son/daughter is a good kid,(s)he wouldn't do anything like that"...wake up you kid is a borderline **** either get with the program or home school your kid. You can't expect the school and the police to do your job...well I guess you can but then again you are part of the problem.
"I'm not sure how the newest interim police chief can be to blame, this has been going on for some time."
I think the fact that it has been going on for some time is a major part of the problem. The problem of violence has to be addressed very quickly or it will only escalate. I do not think anyone is directly blaming the intermim police chief. The previous administration left a out of control mess for this one to clean up.
Also this is the problem of society in general and that does include everybody. Parents, school administrators and children. A too lenient society that rewards and encourages bad behavior and leaves children to without proper early guidance.
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anonymous
United States Reply »
|Report Abuse |#10 2 hrs ago
im a parent and firm believer in (it's not what you can do for your children, but it's what you can teach them to do for themselves) So what have these parents done? i dont want to jear oh! the school this, or the police that. get real these are kids that are on there way to college or work thats scary in its slf could you imagine the college campus or break-time at work. i have a child in this high school and other nieces and nephews and they are (a-b)students.
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Taxpayer
Springfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#11 2 hrs ago
Administrators put forth the image that everything is fine within a school system. They need to take their heads out of the sand. There is a subculture within any school system that all the students are aware of. If you really want to know what is going on at your child's school, talk to them. Of course the administration wants to discount what Ms. Simon states, because if they admitted the problem, they would have get get off their lazy backends and do something about it. It's time the Pittsfield School System got rid of the deadwood within their administration, and bring in people who want to do the job and not just collect a paycheck.
I took my children out of the Pittsfield School Sytem years ago because I wanted a better education for them. This situation within the school system did not happen overnight, it has been building for years.
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sarah
South Hadley, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#12 2 hrs ago
the letter that victoria wrote is completly true. phs violence has incresed and there seems nothing is being done about it, the school is in serious trouble
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anonymous
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#13 2 hrs ago
As a student at PHS, i can honestly say that there is a lot of racial violence at the school. I think its time for the administration to step up and do something about it. I think its sad that the administration are lying to people about whats going on within the school to people who have a right to know whats really going on. That fight on the 7th was real, and every parent and student, and faculty member knows it. But the administration is refusing to put police in the school, take the extra mile to make EVERY student feel safe inside the building. We need to take action now!
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Dave Harding
Chatham, NY Reply »
|Report Abuse |#14 2 hrs ago
This story is a good beginning. It needs to be followed up by the reporter. There are obviously several problems that he needs to investigate. First, is there a means for students to meet with Principal Beauregard to discuss their concerns? Does she meet regularly with student government leaders to hear their concerns? It's hard to believe that Ms. Simon is the only student concerned with this problem. Ms. Beauregard certainly has the right to like or not like the contents of a letter, but she can't ignore the obvious fear and concern raised by Ms. Simon in the letter. As the Mayor said, if one student is concerned, that's one too many. Second, why is Mr. Eberwein dealing with acts of violence? He's a school administrator, not a policeman. If he were at Berkshire Mall and an act of violence occurred, would he try to deal with it? Did the school committee ascertain that he has the proper training in police work when they hired him? Does the school committee wish that acts of violence be handled by Mr. Eberwein instead of the police? Finally, what does happen at Pittsfield High to students who constantly disrupt the learning process? Is there a means to swiftly remove them from the school environment when they are disruptive? No school can function well when the students are more concerned with their safety than with their learning. Let's hope that the reporter is able to shed more light on this problem and help the school and the community to solve it.
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Margaret
Worthington, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#15 1 hr ago
As a second year student at Pittsfield High School, I feel as many people do, that the violence in this school has gone up in the past school year. I believe one of the reasons for this is the transition of administrators in the school itself. Many kids think they can get away with more things as the foundation of the school is rocky. I am not saying that the violence in the school finds administrators to fault. That could be one possibility.
After discussions in many classes through these past two days, I believe Victoria's letter is just the beginning of what may be a revolution to better our Pittsfield High School.
At least two classes at Pittsfield High today spent the entire 49 minutes discussing ways to make our school better and less violent, and ways to put it in motion. A committee was even formed. For people who say nothing has been done, step foot within these history classes, well educated in the Civil Rights movement, and ready for a movement within their own school. Although something that was needed was Victoria's letter, every movement starts with something and I commend Victoria for being brave enough to actually voice what many students and teachers from the school believe.
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Margaret
Worthington, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#16 1 hr ago
This forum posts that my town is Worthington, Ma, which it is not. It is Pittsfield, Ma.
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student
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#17 1 hr ago
im gonna stand up for my school because it is in no way our fault that some parents don't teach their kids how to respect people and not be racist.
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2010classmate
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#18 1 hr ago
maybe if the drop out rate wasnt so pushed and used as an example of our school we could expell the trouble makers.
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anonymous
Pittsfield, MA Reply »
|Report Abuse |#19 22 min ago
As a parent of 2 PHS students and 3 future PHS students I need to know that my children are safe. School Choice is sounding better and better.
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Mob rule at Pittsfield High School
Letters
Article Last Updated: 02/15/2008 09:07:42 AM EST
Friday, February 15

It is a sad commentary on the quality of adult leadership in this community that it takes a student at PHS, in Thursday's Eagle, "No minimizing turmoil at PHS," to spell out the truth about public education in Pittsfield. Like the child in "The Emperor's New Clothes," it is she who outlines the hostile and threatening environment that many students must confront on a daily basis.

I had been a substitute teacher in 20 schools in the county. Without a doubt, the schools in Pittsfield possess the greatest challenges to the best of teachers. Walking the corridors of the middle and high schools in Pittsfield offered a blend of anarchy and obnoxiousness incomprehensible to me. I felt sorry for the 85 percent of the students who were civil and feared being accosted or threatened by other students.

Too many students saw each day as another gauntlet they had to run, more concerned with making it through a day unharmed physically and emotionally rather than academic content. Who can study knowing the reign of the mob prevails?

Like the emperor in the Hans Christian Anderson fable, our city father would like a new state of the art high school. Easier to assemble brick and mortar than to confront the true problems too many of today's students confront, a lack of positive parental influence. It is not an impressive edifice that makes a school; it is the desire of a school community to learn collegially.

The Eagle occasionally runs an op-ed piece by a retired English teacher. It is a shame, only after a faculty member retires is it possible for him to frankly lay out the farce that passes for public educational policy. Blame the teachers, they are not making their classes interesting enough. Do not fault the students and their families for the student's inability to adhere to the minimal standards of decorum.

Perhaps when a faculty person resigns they can meet with The Eagle editorial board and frankly give their opinions about the state of public education without fear of recrimination. Maybe then, overburdened commonwealth taxpayers will be better able to understand why so much is being spent on public education with so little improvement to show for it.

JIM NORCHI
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Engineers get contract: The union's members will pay for 25 percent of their health insurance"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, February 16, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The city of Pittsfield has agreed to a contract with one of its smallest collective bargaining units that will require the group's two members to pay 25 percent of their health insurance premiums, 5 percent higher than most city union members currently pay.

Mayor James M. Ruberto said the 75-25 split that the city negotiated with the Pittsfield Engineers Association does not mean that the city will ask Pittsfield's 17 other collective bargaining units to pay a higher amount for health insurance when their contracts come up for renegotiation.

"I would prefer not to speculate on other negotiations," Ruberto said. "I think it's important to say that the city recognizes that health care increases are going to continue to climb unless something is done to mitigate them.

"Mitigation has to come from either the General Insurance Commission, from savings or from larger employee contributions," he said.

To curb the skyrocketing costs of health insurance premiums, the city negotiated contracts with its three largest unions in 2004 and 2005 that required members who were covered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO to increase their payments from 10 to 20 percent. Several other city unions have since followed suit.

At the time, Ruberto said that higher employee health insurance contributions were key to settling those collective bargaining units and the city's short-term financial health. But he said that a 20 percent increase was not a requirement for settlement.

"If I gave you that impression, obviously, I didn't mean to," he said.

The contract with the Pittsfield Engineers Association is retroactive from July 1, 2007, and will expire June 30, 2010, Ruberto said.

The City Council recently approved the formation of an ad hoc committee to explore whether Pittsfield should join the General Insurance Commission, which has administered health benefits to state employees since 1955. State municipalities recently became eligible to join the GIC.

The city initially could save several million dollars by joining the GIC, but those savings could vanish because of the cost of getting all 18 city unions to sign onto the plan, Holly Taylor of True North Financial Services, Pittsfield's health insurance broker, told the council last month.

The ad hoc committee held its first meeting Wednesday. Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, co-chairman of the ad hoc group, said the committee's goal is to obtain an understanding of the current and possible enrollment in the city's health plans and to determine the potential costs to the city in joining the GIC.

"I view this as a fairly short-term, limited duration group," Lothrop said.

The ad hoc committee also includes City Personnel Director David Battistoni; City Treasurer G. Richard Bordeau; City Councilors Gerald M. Lee, Linda M. Tyer and Peter M. Marchetti; Nancy Dinofrio of the city's health insurance staff; and Ruberto. Tyer is co-chairwoman.

The group's next meeting is Wednesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"Petricca seeks storage permit"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, February 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Two months after the City Council approved Unistress Corp.'s controversial rezoning proposal on Partridge Road, Petricca Development LLC has filed an application with the city for a special permit to store prestressed concrete products on that same 15.6-acre site.

According to plans filed with the Department of Community Development, Petricca has proposed the construction of a gravel storage area that would be located on six of the acres that belong to that parcel. Unistress Corp. and Petricca Development are both subsidiaries of Petricca Industries Inc.

Within that area, Unistress Corp. would store the prestressed concrete products it manufactures for bridges, parking garages, stadiums and railway stations on the north and south sides of an entry roadway that will lead from an adjacent storage area east of the site.

Petricca owns an adjacent 56 acres between Partridge and Cheshire roads in Pittsfield and the Mall Road in Lanesborough that it already uses to store prestressed concrete products.

Slightly more than a half acre of the 15.6-acre lot will be used for the access road, while two acres will contain new grass and landscaping. Four acres of the parcel will remain in its current state as a meadow/field, according to the application.

When the prestressed concrete is being loaded into the area for storage, an overhead crane will lift it off the trailer and carry it down the aisle to its place of storage. The proposed hours of operation are no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 8 p.m. on weekdays and no earlier than 8 a.m. and no later than 6 p.m. on weekends. Operations outside of those hours will occur only in the event of an emergency, the plans state.

With its Feb. 25 meeting having been canceled, the Community Development Board is expected to consider Petricca Development's special permit application at its next meeting on March 4. The board also will meet March 18.

Unistress Corp. President and CEO Perri C. Petricca is on vacation and could not be reached for comment yesterday. Petricca Development's general counsel, Michael E. MacDonald, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

On Dec. 11, the City Council approved a second and final reading of Petricca Development's proposal to rezone the 15.6-acre parcel from residential to light-industrial use. Following the vote, Petricca said the company would wait for the results of an engineering study before it applied to the city for a special permit.

Petricca had asked the city to rezone the land to expand Unistress' storage capacity, which he said was crucial to the company's need to expand. The city approved the rezoning of the 56-acre plot from residential to light-industrial use in 1997.

But the proposal for the 15.6 acre parcel was fiercely opposed by a neighborhood association known as the Partridge Road Group Inc. That parcel is separated by 40- and 20-foot buffer zones from property owned by two city residents.

The council approved its second reading following last-minute negotiations between Petricca and the Partridge Road Group that concluded shortly before the Dec. 11 meeting began.

Petricca has said that he would maintain the same protections on the 15.6-acre plot that he installed on the 56-acre parcel when that land was rezoned 11 years ago. Those eight safeguards include a series of buffers, berms and no-build zones, and the creation of a state Agricultural Preservation Restriction for part of the land. In December, Petricca said he would leave a cornfield on the 15.6-acre parcel in its present state.

Plans filed with the city include a map that includes the drawing of an 8-foot berm topped by 8-foot trees that would separate the storage area from one of the adjoining Partridge Road properties.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com; (413) 496-6224
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Park considered for historic place status: The decision on Springside Park will be made March 12[, 2008]"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, February 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The city's largest park, first formed almost 100 years ago, is being considered by the state Historical Commission for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

The commission will consider Springside Park for nomination at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12, at the state archives building in Boston.

"We'll go down to meet with the state folks and discuss it," said Park Commission Chairman John P. Herman yesterday. The Park Commission discussed the matter Tuesday night.

The state Historical Commission had informed the city by letter on Feb. 5 that Springside Park had been nominated for consideration. In Massachusetts, properties nominated to the National Register are automatically listed on the state Register of Historic Places.

The National Register is the official list of buildings, districts, structures and objects considered to be important in American history, culture, architecture or archaeology. It is administered in Massachusetts through the state Historical Commission on the National Park Service's behalf.

According to the state Historical Commission, Springside Park meets the criteria for the National Register because it contains an early-20th-century planned municipal park, a 19th-century estate that includes a country home in Springside House, and examples of early 20th-century park and landscape design.

Springside Park, located one mile north of the center of Pittsfield, contains 237 1/2 acres. It was assembled by both gifts and purchases of private lands that were formerly used for pasture, limited agricultural activity and suburban estates, according to the state Historical Commission.

The park was formed in 1910 when former Mayor Kelton B. Miller, also publisher of the then Berkshire Evening Eagle, gave 10 acres of land known as Abbott Park to the city. He gave an additional seven acres to the city over the next five years. The private Park and Playground Association further enlarged Abbott Park in 1914 and 1915 by selling undeveloped lots at the east end of Abbott Street and Springside Avenue to the city. By 1919, Abbot Park was known as Springside Park.

In 1938, Miller's sons, Donald B. and Lawrence K. Miller, took an option on the 75-acre Stephens Estate and announced their intention to donate the property to the city in honor of their father, who had died three years later. The gift was contingent on the city purchasing an adjacent 36-acre cow pasture. The Stephens Estate included the large "cottage" now known as Springside House. Abraham Burbank built the earliest portions of Springside House in 1856, according to the state Historical Commission. Springside House has been under the Park Department's jurisdiction since 1939.

'They'd be thrilled'

"It's wonderful," said Mark Miller of Pittsfield, Kelton Miller's grandson, when informed that Springside Park will be considered for nomination to the National Register.

"They'd be thrilled," Miller said of his relatives. "It was kind of my grandfather's hobby to give land that would be involved in either park or forest land."

In 1939, the city added an additional 36 acres to Springside Park that it had purchased for $2,500 from a city resident. In 1951, the Millers gave a 38-acre parcel within the park to the city of Pittsfield to build North Junior High School, now Reid Middle School. According to Eagle files, the land was given with the understanding that the city would acquire additional acreage to compensate for that loss. In 1957, the City Council approved the addition of a 38-acre parcel on upper North Street.

Victory gardens

Springside Park reached its current configuration in 1961 after the city purchased a 23-acre parcel that had been used to plant victory gardens during World War II, and two smaller parcels on Benedict Road.

In 1999, the city officially established the nonprofit Hebert Arboretum, named after former Park Superintendent Vincent Hebert, in Springside Park.

In December, the Park Commission adopted an ad hoc committee's recommendation that the city's first dog park be located on the site of the former Springside Park zoo, which officially opened in 1967 but ceased operation many years ago.

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"Good old boys"
TheTranscript.com (The North Adams Transcript Online)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gary Shepard, the embattled administrator of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority during its time of disgrace two years back, may not have been the best choice for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority's new administrator, but he was the only choice offered.

The authority's advisory board swallowed that pill from its nominating committee last week, nodding to Mr. Shepard even after questions were raised about his big-bucks lawsuit against his former employer (the PVTA) and about a grand-jury investigation into his past handling of its funds, contracts and general administration.

Joseph Dean, board member from Adams -- who may have a couple of long-standing axes to grind with home boy Mr. Shepard -- questioned the BRTA nominating committee's procedures. Odd, because Mr. Dean was one of the three nominating committee members, with Deanna Ruffer of Pittsfield and Sandra Lamb of North Adams. Mr. Dean said he thought either of two other candidates could have handled the job and wondered why he never got to vote on Mr. Shepard's nomination.

Here's one answer: Stopping this appointment wasn't going to happen. All the king's horses and all the king's men hoisted Mr. Shepard back together again.

The entire Berkshire delegation to the state Legislature (one senator and five representatives) signed a letter of support for him. The mayors of Pittsfield and North Adams jumped out on a potential political limb for him. Anyone issuing warnings, citing procedure or even screaming and kicking and yelling wasn't getting anywhere.

The fact is, Pittsfield and North Adams have the biggest bus routes in this county (along with Great Barrington and Dalton). They have the ridership. They pay the largest assessments, and therefore they have the votes. They rode with Mr. Shepard.

Mr. Dean and anyone trying to hop on his bus were driving on the wrong side of the highway. So what if he and couple of board members thought they smelled something -- and it wasn't diesel fumes? Mr. Shepard has never been charged with anything regarding the PVTA's past problems and is only suing for the back pay he believes is owned him. A separate sexual harassment suit has gone nowhere. Anonymous and insinuating tips about the circumstances surrounding his most recent employment for a Springfield cleaning supplies firm haven't panned out -- in fact, the owner of the company praised his work.

The real question is not about Mr. Shepard, who is undoubtedly qualified -- perhaps overqualified -- for the BRTA job and will likely end up hired for one year at the bargain price of $70,000 and be subject to close scrutiny. The real question is about the advisory board and its procedures -- especially the attendance of its members. Only 10 of 23 members showed for what was likely the most important vote the authority has faced in years. According to Lanesborough member Peter Gallant, that's three or four more people than usually show up for meetings. Notably, Pittsfield, North Adams and Adams representatives almost always attend.

Mr. Gallant, also a dutiful attendee, provided the most sensible option three weeks ago, when two of the three nominating committee members had pushed for an immediate vote on Mr. Shepard's appointment -- he asked for a two-week delay so members could have time to consider the issues. Mr. Gallant did his homework. And after all the brou-ha-ha, he cast the vote for Mr. Shepard. Why? Because Mr. Shepard was the sole nominee, has the necessary qualifications for the job and, despite lingering questions about his past, has never been charged with anything.

Mr. Shepard may prove to be an able, earnest and capable administrator who can run a tight ship. Two mayors have bet on it; a state senator and five state representatives say it must be so. Then again, he may end up being be a political flack getting by on inflated credentials and good-old-boy connections dating back to the Dukakis administration. He may even end up being the ogre his worst enemies try to paint him as.

Whatever the case may be, the BRTA advisory board members who have neglected their duties need to step up and do the job they were appointed to do.

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"Audit reveals city in good shape"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, February 23, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Except for some internal management practices, an independent auditor told a City Council finance subcommittee Tuesday night that the city's finances continue to remain in good shape.

Thomas J. Scanlon Jr. of South Deerfield said Pittsfield "is in fine financial shape," and that it has made a "complete financial turnaround" from the dark days of 2001, when it had an $8 million deficit and spent three years under the control of a state oversight board.

"As soon as they could get out of here, they got out of here," Scanlon said referring to the state oversight board, which took control of the city's finances in July 2001 after problems that started with the health insurance account created the deficit.

Scanlon, who has been auditing those finances since 2002, presented his audit for fiscal 2007, which ended June 30. Following his presentation, Councilor at large Gerald M. Lee noted that Scanlon no longer used the phrase "deficiency report" to refer to the annual audit.

"We still use that term often with some of our other clients," Scanlon said. "But not here. Pittsfield is in fine shape. The records are good. The personnel is good. You couldn't be any happier."

Scanlon said his audit found eight internal management practices that he suggested in a letter to the city "are opportunities for strengthening internal controls and operating efficiency."

Having the city develop a manual to document its current accounting policies and procedures, provide a periodic risk assessment to minimize asset misappropriation, and adopt a formal policy and procedure to track capital assets were some of Scanlon's recommendations.

He also said that the city must keep better track of collecting tax liens on properties where buildings have been demolished, and that it has funding from several outstanding checks that must be accounted for.

"There's $50,000 in outstanding checks that were never cleared and need to be cleared off," he said.

Referring to the cash reconciliation from the outstanding checks, Scanlon said, "If we came in and found a material weakness in cash reconciliation, we would go to the federal government.

"We found no material weakness in Pittsfield. All we've found were some management findings. That's a star in your halo."

He said the city had budgeted $5.2 million in fiscal 2007 for excise and other taxes, but so far had collected only $4.8 million, a deficit of some $450,000.

"The excise bills are down," Scanlon said. "The economy is not going so well. That's going to be something to take into account when setting budgets in future years because you're not going to have that revenue to come in.

"I'm definitely very pleased with the city's financial management. I've definitely seen a dramatic increase over the years. It's good to see."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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Reader Comment:
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2/23/2008
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gee we've got more than that, if you look at the CFR's for pittsfield... and even still with 5.2 million we can't afford salt and sand for our roads? new books for our children in the schools, and a pay raise for educators? oh i forgot, we're too busy giving tax breaks to service venues, because heaven forbid pittsfield look to bring back its industrial base. after all, we're all better with a job flipping burgers and waiting on tourists making 8.00 an hour over the industrial jobs which pay 12-13 an hour.
you know why pittsfield's census is shrinking? because we've had a mayor who gives kick backs to the wealthy and demands more from the poor. the money you've put in to the city coffers, is handed out left and right to bring in a service economy, and we all know those fall apart.
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"City officials can ask fair questions"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, February 25, 2008

At the Park Commission meeting of Feb. 19, Commissioner Charles Garivaltis asked why the rope tow at Osceola Park had not been in operation before late February for the past two winters, a legitimate question in my view, at which point the director of building maintenance and grounds, Ernie Fortini, became combative and ended up storming out of the meeting, apparently because someone had the gall to question the goings on at a city park.

If Mr. Fortini, a city employee, can't take a little heat from an appointed city official in the form of a legitimate question, then he should resign his position and go to work somewhere where he won't be questioned. I hope that the few people in the city who raise their voices in protest when they don't like what is happening will continue to do so, as I will.

JIM GLEASON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"New youth leader is a hip-hop poet"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, February 25, 2008
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PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts
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It was a unique way for the city's new youth commissioner to make a first impression.
Introduced to the Youth Commission for the first time by her predecessor Brittany Berman, Cassandra Ynocencio saved a surprise for the end.

"I rapped a little bit," she said.

Ynocencio, 22, who grew up in and around New York City, has been performing her own poetry since she was 13. On the advice of a creative writing teacher, she began rapping to a beat six years ago.

"I grew up on hip-hop," the Michigan State University graduate said, "but I just rap on my own personal experiences. It's the world that I see from a 22-year-old's perspective who's lived everywhere from the city to the suburbs and now the mountains."

It's those life experiences plus a desire to work with young people that Ynocencio brings to Pittsfield as the city's second youth commissioner. She officially replaced Berman on Feb. 20.

As with Berman, Ynocencio is a recent college graduate — an English major, she graduated from Michigan State University in 2007 — and an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and she will be in Pittsfield for 11 months.

Berman, whose term officially expired last month, had a hand in picking her successor. She called Ynocencio after spotting her profile on the AmeriCorps Web site. Currently traveling, Berman could not be reached for comment.

"I always wanted to work with kids, (but) I didn't have any experience being an English major," Ynocencio said. "I was looking into AmeriCorps programs. ... I set up my profile, described what my interests were. Brittany was in the process of trying to find someone to take her place, and she randomly called me."

The two women discussed the position.

"It sounded ideal," Ynocencio said. "I just never heard about it. I met the mayor. He liked me and I got the job."

Mayor James M. Ruberto said that he was intrigued by Ynocencio's background and experiences at Michigan State, which included some hip-hop and poetry performances.

"When I spoke with her, I felt the same sense of openness and enthusiasm that Brittany brought to the position," Ruberto said. "Based on Brittany's recommendation and my feeling of openness and enthusiasm, I thought she would be a good successor."

Ynocencio, who moved five times before entering high school, would like to take what she experienced growing up and use it in a positive way to help teenagers grow.

"I had a rough upbringing," she said, "so I always thought that it would be kind of nice for me to mentor or give back what I wish somebody would have told me. Since I'm still close to a high school student's age, it's really important that my heartbreaks and mistakes weren't in vain.

"I believe in positive karma."

Ruberto first proposed the creation of a city youth commissioner in April 2004, believing that the cabinet-level position would help sharpen City Hall's focus on Pittsfield's young people. But the job proved hard to fill, and the city finally turned to the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer program last year when Berman was brought in to fill the spot.

The Youth Commission had been defunct for three years when Berman came on, but during her tenure, she reorganized the group. The commission held open mike performances, organized a block party for a few hundred people and held candidate forums during last fall's municipal elections. Working with the School Department, Berman also began a program that allows teenagers to earn 10 high school credits by performing a community service activity through the commission.

Ynocencio currently is overseeing the completion of a program that Berman started, a youth talent show at Barrington Stage Company on March 7. Personal goals include developing a budget for the Youth Commission, trying to find the board some office space, obtaining grants and working on race relations in the city.

"I'd like to do something about race relations," she said. "But it would have to be an event that the kids in the Youth Commission believe is necessary. The mayor promotes diversity. It's just something I'm interested in. I learned about it a lot in college."

She also is interested in developing a guidebook that contains a curriculum for the Youth Commission, so that if the city cannot obtain another VISTA volunteer the board could be supervised by someone else.

"This way, if the VISTA volunteers stop, a teacher can open this guide and know what the service learning component is and how it can be run," Ynocencio said. "I'm hoping the kids who've been in the Youth Commission with Brittany will help me write it."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: dobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"City Seeks Public Comment on Human Services"
iBerkshires.com - February 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD – The Pittsfield Human Services Advisory Council (HSAC) is holding a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:00 p.m. in Pittsfield’s City Hall Council Chambers where residents are encouraged to attend to discuss the human services needs in the city.

According to HSAC Chairman Daniel Allen, “We want to give the public an opportunity to meet with us directly so that they can describe what their human service needs are and what agencies they turn to when needing assistance.” The HSAC will use the information to help them prepare funding recommendations for human service programs for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008.

“I strongly urge residents to attend this hearing and help the City better understand the community’s needs,” said Mayor James M. Ruberto. “This hearing will allow us to prioritize our services, and help us continue to be more efficient in serving the citizens of Pittsfield.”

This meeting is part of a multi-month process undertaken annually by the HSAC that culminates in recommendations being made to Mayor Ruberto and the City Council. Last year's recommendations resulted in 36 human service programs receiving a total of $444,000 from City general funds and federal Community Development Block Grant Program money.

Pittsfield City Hall is wheelchair accessible. Anyone not able to attend the meeting may submit comments, orally or in writing, to the Pittsfield Department of Community Development, 70 Allen St., Pittsfield, MA 01201 or by phone at 413.499.9450 (teletype 413.499.9340).

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"Superintendent up for two school posts"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, February 28, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Outgoing Superintendent of Schools Katherine E. Darlington is under consideration for two similar positions that are located near her home in Andover in northeastern Massachusetts.

The 56-year-old Darlington has been selected as one of four finalists for the superintendent's position in Burlington, and is one of six semifinalists for a similar position in Lowell, according to a published report and information available on the Internet.

Mayor James M. Ruberto yesterday confirmed that Darlington was a finalist in Burlington, saying that he had spoken with that town's School Committee on Tuesday.

"I gave Katherine Darlington a very, very favorable recommendation," Ruberto said.

Darlington's selection in Lowell was published in yesterday's Lowell Sun newspaper. Ruberto was unaware that Darlington had applied for the position in Lowell.

"I had not heard that," he said.

Darlington, who is in the final year of her three contract as Pittsfield's superintendent, had said last May that she would be leaving Pittsfield when her contract expires June 30. She made her intentions known after not being chosen for the superintendent's position in Malden, where she had been one of the two finalists. She also applied for the superintendent's position in Salem last year that went to Pittsfield's former Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Negotiations William J. Cameron Jr.

Darlington could not be reached to comment on the Burlington position, but said she applied for the superintendent's job in Lowell because it is an urban district, and 15 minutes from her home in Andover where she has lived for 17 years.

'A viable option'

"It's a slightly larger district than Pittsfield," she said. "In terms of programs and challenges and the urban experience, it's a viable option."

Burlington is 12 miles south of Lowell. The three other finalists for the Burlington job are two current superintendents and one assistant superintendent. Darlington is the only candidate from Massachusetts.

In Lowell, the five other semifinalists include another superintendent, two assistant superintendents and two candidates from the Lowell School District.

Former Lowell Mayor and City Councilor Eileen Donoghue, who was chairwoman of the city's 15-member Superintendent Search Committee, said she believes that the board was impressed with Darlington's background.

"I can't speak for the entire committee, but they seemed very impressed with her experience and her résumé, especially her urban experience," Donoghue said.

Bilingual and bicultural

Before coming to Pittsfield, Darlington served three years as principal of James F. Leonard Middle School in Lawrence. Before that, she was the administrator of Lawrence's bilingual/ English as a Second Language programs and helped restructure education for English language learners by setting up an ELL program that served 3,000 students. Born in Panama, Darlington is bilingual and bicultural.

According to the Lowell Sun, the superintendent screening committee is charged with presenting the names of the five finalists to the School Committee by March 14. The semifinalists are expected to be interviewed next week.

The Burlington School Committee was expected to complete public interviews with the four finalists by the end of this month.

The birthplace of "On the Road" author Jack Kerouac, Lowell, with 104,000 residents, is the state's fourth largest city. According to Donoghue, the Lowell School District contains 14,000 students who attend 25 schools. Burlington, which has 22,876 residents, has six schools, and two representatives on a school committee that oversees Shawsheen Technical School in nearby Billerica. The total student enrollment in the Burlington School District could not be obtained last night. Pittsfield, which has 45,793 residents, had 6,404 students attending 13 schools as of Oct. 1.

During Darlington's tenure in Pittsfield, student test scores have improved — all but one of the city's public schools achieved academic targets in their aggregate, or average, MCAS test scores last spring — although the dropout rate has slowly begun to decrease. But there has also been a significant turnover of personnel, especially at the administrative level.

Besides Cameron's position, the School Department has replaced its assistant superintendent and has brought on seven new principals in the past three years.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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Reader's comments:
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"FedUpTaxpayer", 2/28/2008:
She was the biggest farce this city has had to deal with in years. What a waste of time and money. She never had her heart into the job. She never moved here. Why didnt the city hire someone qualified who had a vested interest in the job? I hope she doesnt let the door hit in the A$& on the way out. I hope Lowell is not stupid enough to hire her!
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Anonymous, 2/28/2008:
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Just what a school system needs, a carpet bagger for super, and a pat on the back from Jimmy the Mayor, now thats an endorsement.
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"Students departing Pittsfield"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, March 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield public schools have experienced a significant increase this year in the number of students who have left to attend Berkshire County's only charter school, a city school department administrator said.

The number of Pittsfield students attending the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter School in Adams has increased 109 percent, from 22 students last year to 46 pupils as of Oct. 1, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Sally Douglas.

The School Department also has taken a significant financial hit because of the increase. Pittsfield loses $5,000 in tuition costs for every student who chooses to leave for another public school district, but that amount rises to $9,900 per pupil for those who go to a charter school, Douglas said.

Thirteen of those 46 students who left to attend BArT are sixth-graders, while 12 are ninth-graders. Sixth and ninth grades are the entry levels for middle and high school in Pittsfield. Thus, the departure of 46 students to the charter school represents a $455,400 loss for the Pittsfield school budget.

Mayor James M. Ruberto, who is an ex-officio member of the School Committee, chastised the state Department of Education for allowing the tuition discrepancy to exist.

"It's truly disappointing that the Department of Education doesn't show leadership and recognize being very discriminating when they come to approve or authorize charter schools," Ruberto said.

"This is not what anyone intended," he said. "I'm just sorely disappointed to see that 46 children leave Pittsfield to go to the charter school.

"It kills me," the mayor said.

The number of Pittsfield students who left to attend other public schools this year rose by 11 students, from 252 pupils to 263, a 4.4 percent increase, Douglas said. Including the charter school students, the total number of students who have transferred out of the Pittsfield public schools this year has increased by 35 students, from 274 pupils to 309.

Students who left other districts to attend Pittsfield dropped by nine pupils, from 144 to 135, a decrease of 6.2 percent, she said.

Douglas said the city's school-choice figures may have changed since Oct. 1, which is the deadline for school districts to report enrollment figures to the state Department of Education.

Pittsfield has received about $1 million in tuition from incoming school-choice students this year, but has lost roughly $1.5 million from students who have opted out, Douglas said.

A consultant hired to examine Pittsfield's school-choice issues determined that many pupils leave for "convenience," Douglas said. She said there are several reasons why students choose to come to Pittsfield, but did not go into specifics. She also added that there is a "perception out there" regarding the Pittsfield public schools that often is fueled by the media and those who don't visit the schools.

The number of Richmond students who have left the school district increased by 18 pupils — from 16 students to 34 this year. Seven other students opted to attend Lenox public schools, increasing the overall number of Pittsfield pupils from 67 to 74, the largest overall total of any other district. The number of Pittsfield students attending Lee schools dropped by eight students, from 46 to 38.

The Central Berkshire Regional School District has 54 students attending Pittsfield schools, the largest number of any other school district. But that number decreased by eight from the 62 students who attended school in Pittsfield last year.

Of those 54 Central Berkshire students, 30 are attending Pittsfield schools through school choice, 15 are paying tuition for vocational programs, and nine are special-education students, Douglas said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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School choice ...

Pittsfield students in other schools

2006-07 2007-08

BArT 22 46

Richmond 34 16

Lenox 67 74

Lee 46 38

Central Berkshire 62 54

Incoming students to Pittsfield schools

2006-07 2007-08

144 135

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3/4/2008

As a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I believe the state is being INEQUITABLE to redistribute public money from my native poor & working class community to its middle class & wealthy bordering neighbor to the south. Please review the news article, below. When economic formulas undermine the quality of public education then education is no longer a legitimate cause for the common man.

When I was a graduate student at U Mass Amherst in 1998, I had an Economics Professor who was granted $25,000 from the upper-class Town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, to find ways via economic formulas to gentrify its public schools. My U Mass Economic Professor said that the better Wellesley's public schools are, the better the Town will attract wealthy homeowners, such as corporate executives, medical doctors and lawyers. Wealth attracts wealth, and the higher the property values become for homes in Wellesley. As a reader of The Boston Globe, many arguments have since been made that Wellesley public schools are nothing of the sort because the common man cannot afford a million-dollar home, high property taxes and the related costs associated with living in Wellesley. Therefore, the Town of Wellesley's public schools are only public in the legal sense of the word, but are for all intents and purposes better than competing private schools. Moreover, this was all done by design in order to gentrify the Town of Wellesley for the interests of the few or elite.

If I was 15 and lived in Pittsfield and choiced over to Lenox, I would NOT be put into the best classes with the brightest students. I would feel safer and have more hope in Lenox High School, but I would be given the common man classes with the average teachers. In short, I would NOT be given a ticket to Harvard or Yale.

I believe it is INEQUITABLE for the state to redistribute public money from a poor and working class community like Pittsfield and give it to a middle class and wealthy community like Lenox. I believe economic formulas have undermined the very spirit of public education as a mean of opportunity for the common man. Massachusetts has made public education into an elitist institution that serves the interests of the few or the elite.

In Dissent!
Jonathan A. Melle
~Former lifelong resident of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts~

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"The wasteland that is Kent Avenue"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Thursday, March 06, 2008

I've lived on Kent Avenue for over two years now. I moved here as a retired Air Force veteran just to get into the Berkshire area. I thought I could find a nice place eventually after I got here and had a good look around. My veterans' benefits have only just come in and I'm trying to find a home away from all of the sirens of Berkshire Medical Center and away from all of the human garbage I deal with on a daily basis here on Kent Avenue.

It's so sad and frustrating to see the drunks and drug users toddling up the street and talking to themselves. I hate the trash that they leave on the street and on the sidewalk. I hate seeing the hookers getting picked up in fancy cars because they attract other bad things.

I hate reading about people that live on this street in the paper. It just seems like a dump for humans that have no other purpose in life but to steal from others and do nothing to make the community better.

Tonight I had something stolen from me by a drug dealer who lives in my building. I know it will never be recovered and I doubt that he'll ever be put in jail for that or his other many offenses. To me, "Creative Pittsfield" refers to how creative criminals are in our town.

I wish we could run things like they did in the old west. If you had a major problem with someone you could have a fair gunfight in the street and only one of you would walk away. I also like the fact that they used to run criminals out of town permanently. I wish we could do that here.

I used to be opposed to BMC buying up properties so it could make additional parking for its workers and patients. But now I hope it buys all of Kent Avenue and either burns it to the ground or fill it with interns that are doing something to help people.

I'm praying that I find a house to buy very soon. I'm not sure how much longer I can live in this dump and maintain my sanity. It's pathetic.

JAMES NICHOLS
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Wasteland is overtaking Pittsfield"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Thursday, March 13, 2008

James Nichols' March 6 letter "The Wasteland that is Kent Avenue" accurately tells the story of the northwest side of the city and something more. It is indicative of the coming fate of all of Pittsfield if drastic measures are not taken.

The problems at Pittsfield High are being accepted as a problem, but not all that bad. The human grime that frequents North St. wandering up from Kent Ave., Madison Ave., Linden St., Bradford St. and so on down the rest of North St. are being accepted as a problem, but not that bad, as long as they don't start shooting! The underlying feeling is, let them stab each other, sell drugs to each other, but hopefully they don't invade other parts of our city. But, if you face the truth, the carnage has invaded all of Pittsfield and is taking over.

If the citizens, the mayor, the City Council and the police are serious about not just controlling crime, but eliminating it, the city has to make some drastic moves. The first is to look outside the city for a new police chief who can manage and focus the police force. The city has to shake off the many generations of police families and the familiar tactics of attacking problems. It hasn't worked!

There has to be a resolution by the city that this cannot continue, and put some teeth in actions that are taken.

The city wants to attract more tourism and businesses. Do you think anyone reviewing the news, or driving through the city is impressed? Was it a good solution to have more liquor licenses available for downtown to help the influx of potential visitors?

If we look further into the wasteland of Mr. Nichols subject, Kent Ave., we will see a greater wasteland that is slowly engulfing the rest of Pittsfield.

BRUCE BARLOW
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Movie cinema now on track: Summer launch set for construction"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, March 07, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A redesigned downtown cinema project, which includes an additional 15,000 square feet of commercial space, appears on track for a summer construction launch, a city official said this week.

The city's community development director, Deanna Ruffer, said financing for the public-private partnership project to be built inside the Kresge-Kinnell building at 49-55 North St. is being finalized and that construction is expected to last about 14 months.

The long-awaited six-theater project suffered a setback a year ago: The National Park Service determined the design did not retain enough historic elements of its two old North Street buildings to qualify the project for $900,000 in historic tax credits.

The project has since been reworked by developer Richard Stanley of Egremont, who also built the Triplex Cinemas in Great Barrington in the 1990s.

Stanley could not be reached for comment. It's not yet clear how the redesign — and the project's delay — will impact what had been projected as a $12.6 million project a year ago.

The Beacon Cinemas project has received a total of $1 million in loans from the city's economic development fund, and Ruffer said the new design is likely to satisfy historic tax credit requirements.

"It's looking really good," said Ruffer, noting that the redesign effort dramatically improved the overall project. "With the redesign, it's greatly enhanced as a mixed-use project from our perspective."

The project has also qualified for $2 million in public grants, and Stanley will make a private equity investment as well, Ruffer said.

Initially just 5,000 square feet in non-theater commercial space was included, but the new design is reconfigured in a manner that adds another 15,000 square feet.

Space for a restaurant has always been set aside in the plans, and the city is holding an all-alcoholic liquor license on reserve for use by an eventual restaurant.

The commercial space will be dispersed among the three floors of the theater facing North Street, with the theaters toward the rear of the building, in a "three-over-three" design.

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"Fill potholes for city's taxpayers"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, March 08, 2008

It seems that the mayor's patch and seal program that was implemented in the fall of 2007 just before the mayoral election was a complete failure and a waste of taxpayers' dollars.

Anyone who drives just about anywhere on Pittsfield roads must clearly see that everywhere that was patched or sealed last fall is now 10 times worse than before. Many citizens are experiencing costly damage to their vehicles and tires because of the problem. Attempts by the city to fill all the deep potholes is not working.

With taxpayers having such an increase in their property taxes while complying with the mayor's "pain and sacrifice" agenda, taxpayers should expect to have a portion of that extra tax revenue spent properly on the city's basic maintenance needs.

JOSEPH NICHOLS
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Spice in Pittsfield closes indefinitely"
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle
03/18/2008, 2:26 PM EDT

PITTSFIELD - Spice owner Joyce Bernstein said today that the upscale North Street restaurant that has been at the center of the city's downtown renaissance will be closed indefinitely due to financial hardship.

Spice's Web site notes the restaurant will be closed from March 16 to March 31, but Bernstein said the business will remain dark due to the economic climate of the city.

"Unfortunately the present economic model is not particularly viable in Pittsfield," Bernstein said. "And at this point, we have no other choice but to close and see if we can reconfigure (the restaurant) in a different way."

The burger joint, "Burger," which Bernstein and business partner Larry Rosenthal opened in November in a space adjacent to the culinary North Street icon, will remain open with shortened hours for the next two weeks.

Aliah Bakari, an employee at Burger, said workers were notified of the change Monday.

Bernstein and Rosenthal launched Spice in June 2006 and invested more than $6 million in transforming the former Besse-Clarke building, which the pair purchased in 2002 for $270,000.

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North Street in Pittsfield

"Vital downtown eatery closes doors: Under mounting debt, owner has 'no other choice'"
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Spice, the upscale North Street restaurant that many considered a vital part of the city's downtown renaissance, will be closed indefinitely because of financial hardship, co-owner Joyce S. Bernstein said yesterday.

Spice's Web site states that the restaurant will be closed from March 16 to March 31, but Bernstein said the business will remain dark until further notice because of the economic climate of the city. Meanwhile, Spice's sister restaurant, Burger, will remain open.

"Unfortunately, the present economic model is not particularly viable in Pittsfield," Bernstein said in a telephone interview. "And at this point, we have no other choice but to close and see if we can reconfigure (the restaurant) in a different way."

She declined to discuss further specifics of the closing or details of the restaurant's financial situation.

Bernstein and business partner Lawrence M. Rosenthal launched the award-winning restaurant in June 2006 and invested more than $6 million to transform the former Besse-Clarke clothing store building, which the pair purchased for $270,000 in 2002.

According to information recorded at the Central Berkshire Registry of Deeds, Rosenthal's company — which owns the Spice building — has a $7.8 million mortgage through Berkshire Bank.

Records indicate that the mortgage, originally filed in July 2005 for $3 million, was amended several times over the past two years. The latest increase, filed in September, brings the mortgage total to $7.8 million.

(The Mount, the nonprofit historic Lenox residence of 19th-century novelist Edith Wharton, currently owes Berkshire Bank $4.3 million and is trying to raise money to avoid foreclosure.)

In 2005, Pittsfield awarded Spice an 11-year tax break, allowing the owners to pay no property taxes on any of the improvements until 2016. There are no plans to discontinue the tax break, Mayor James M. Ruberto said yesterday.

Although it is unclear what caused Bernstein and Rosenthal to close Spice, Ruberto said he believes the restaurant will be back.

"Not to say that this isn't a disappointment, but I think 'closing' is a harsh word," Ruberto said. "I think Spice is taking a hiatus. If I were in academia, I would call it a sabbatical. But I'm a plastics salesman, so I'll call it a hiatus. A long-overdue hiatus. I am confident Spice will reopen in one form or another."

The restaurant became the poster business for Pittsfield's efforts to revitalize its downtown. City leaders had long hoped that cultural attractions such as the Colonial Theatre and Barrington Stage Company would foster a rise in restaurants and retail businesses, and Spice represented a private entrepreneur's willingness to invest heavily in that vision.

"Joyce (Bernstein) has a super vision of creating a wonderful restaurant in Pittsfield," said Ray Smith, acting CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. "So I know how deeply this will cut to the core of the city of Pittsfield if it ends up being a situation where they are not able to reopen."

Mike Supranowicz, president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the restaurant can return to form in time for the summer tourism season.

"It's really unfortunate that this has happened," Supranowicz said. "Spice provided a great opportunity for a special night out. And we just hope it doesn't have a domino effect. We hope they can regroup for tourist season. But, again, the economic climate could have an effect on that, too."

Ruberto said restaurants such as Spice rely heavily on local support during the business lag that comes with the tourism off-season.

"I think what they're saying is let's modify this to have a greater appeal throughout the year and not just during prime tourist season," he said. "(Residents of Pittsfield) wanted a fine, white-tablecloth restaurant. And now if you want it, you have to support it."

Peter Christie, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said he was surprised to learn of Spice's closing.

"Wow. I thought they were doing well," said Christie, who ate at Spice just last week. "It's a difficult climate right now. Whether we are in a recession or not, restaurants are always the first to feel the effects of economic downturn and the last to recover."

Christie said the young age of the restaurant might make business difficult.

"If the business had been around for 10 years, maybe they could have had some reserves to carry them through tough times," he said.

Days before Spice's opening in 2006, Bernstein told The Eagle that the renovation of the Besse-Clarke building was filled with some nasty surprises. When workers removed tiles from the second-floor ceiling, they discovered there had been a fire long ago that destroyed several ceiling beams. Needing an additional 2 feet of head room in the basement, they tore out the cement floor "and carried it out like miners." After they had excavated a foot of soil, they found another layer of concrete.

"If you name it, it went wrong," Bernstein said at the time.

She estimated the total cost of the renovation at the time — including two kitchens and a state-of-the-art heating and air-conditioning system — at $4.5 million.

The original plans included Spice Market, a European-style food hall that was to offer freshly prepared food to eat in or take out; Spice Gallery, an art gallery featuring work from the Storefront Artist Project and others; and a noodle bar.

Plans for the noodle bar transformed into Burger, a restaurant Bernstein and Rosenthal opened in November in a space adjacent to the culinary North Street icon.

Aliah Bakari, an employee at Burger, said workers were notified recently that the restaurant would shorten its hours through the end of the month.

Spice, meanwhile, has garnered regional and national accolades in just a short time.

In October 2006, head Chef Douglas Luf was named Chef of the Year by the Western Mass. Committee of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

The New England Cable News Network show "TV Diner with Billy Costa" presented Spice with its 2007 Gold Plate Award for Excellent Dining. Last year, the restaurant was named "Restaurant of the Year" by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts — the first time the award was given to a Berkshire County business.

Despite its closing, Spice will host a gathering tonight to celebrate the work of Tyler Fairbank, the former president of the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, who left the organization to start a renewable energy development company at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort.

Eagle reporters Ellen Lahr and Jack Dew contributed to this story.

To reach Amy Carr: acarr@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6233

Spice through the years

1998 — Joyce Bernstein and Lawrence Rosenthal relocate their business, Link to Life, from Horseheads, N.Y., to Pittsfield.

2002 — The company grows from 20 to 52 employees, and the couple purchase the former Besse-Clarke building for $270,000.

2004 — Plans are unveiled to the Pittsfield City Council for a bistro, restaurant and tavern called North Street Market Place. The players are Bernstein, Rosenthal, David Renner and Kevin Schmitz, and former Red Lion Inn chef Douglas Luf.

2005 — The Besse-Clarke building undergoes extensive renovations. More than $4.5 million is invested in the building.

June 12, 2006 — Spice opens its doors.

Nov. 2, 2007 — Burger, a hamburger joint just down from Spice, opens. The cost of the two restaurants tops $6 million.

March 16 — Spices closes.

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"A missing ingredient"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Fellow business owners and leaders of the area's cultural institutions were shocked by the news of Spice's closing yesterday.

But while many debated the factors that forced the trendy night spot to shut its doors indefinitely, several said that it will in no way slow the momentum of Pittsfield's downtown renaissance.

George Whaling, a real estate developer who is a frequent diner at Spice, said he was saddened by the news, especially after having eaten there last week when the restaurant was 80 percent packed and a dinner upstairs sponsored by Berkshire Grown had attracted hundreds.

"It's tough, because my feeling was that Spice was just starting to hit its sweet spot," said Whaling, who owns several downtown buildings. "But the size and the scope and the investment were ambitious for Las Vegas, let alone Pittsfield."

Several wondered yesterday whether the ambitions of Spice's owners, Joyce S. Bernstein and Lawrence Rosenthal, were beyond the breadth of Pittsfield. A restaurant industry Web site estimated that the average start-up costs for opening a restaurant are $1.14 million. The owners said they invested $4.5 million at the onset, and now the building at 297 North St. has a $7.8 million mortgage.

Although prices at Spice ranged from $19 to $44 for entrees, they had jumped a bit since the restaurant's opening. A macaroni and Maine lobster dinner in June 2006 was $19. The current menu lists it for $28.

"Don't blame the economics on Pittsfield," Whaling said. "Some will spin this that Pittsfield is not an economically viable city, but I disagree. A $44 steak is a tough sell in the Big Apple."

Whaling said the city continues to ride a wave of economic revitalization amid a gloomy national economy. Places such as Bobby Hudpucker's Pub & Grill attract constant crowds on North Street, and Pittsfield Brew Works recently doubled its Depot Street space.

Meghan Whilden, director of the city's cultural development, said several other restaurants have grown over the past year, including Brix, which added a new kitchen and a full bistro menu, and Pancho's Mexican Restaurant, which grew from a takeout place to a full-scale restaurant with dancing at night.

Whaling recently leased space inside the Greystone Building at the corner of North and Maplewood Avenue to Jim Benson, who plans on opening a Spanish-style tapas bar soon. And out of the 15 high-end condos ($130,000 to $235,000) that Whaling built inside 433 North St., just one remains unsold.

But when it comes to the restaurant and attraction industries, Berkshire County establishments take a hard hit in the winter months, March especially, Whilden said.

"I think winter is difficult for all places in the Berkshires," she said. "We've had closings from North Adams to Great Barrington. There's changing economic conditions. But I think we'll see Spice make some changes, and we'll see it reopen this summer, and it will be packed."

Peter Christie, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said restaurants across the commonwealth are feeling the pinch of high food prices and declining patronage.

"Many restaurants are just hanging on, and it wouldn't take much to rattle them," he said. "It's a tough, tough business. And many times I've heard people say, 'I loved that place. What happened to it?' And sometimes the prices aren't good. Sometimes the prices are too good. But no matter what, the restaurants need customers to survive."

Patrick Spencer, chef/co-owner of Brix, said March sales have slumped a bit, but based on last year's numbers, things are looking up. He is optimistic that Spice can reinvent itself and remain a fixture on the downtown scene.

"As restaurateurs, we welcomed Spice, and we wanted it to be successful," he said. "It's part of the Pittsfield renaissance."

David Fleming, executive director of the Colonial Theatre, has been involved in urban gentrification projects in other areas of the country. He said renewal should never be pegged to just one ingredient.

"I can't think of another place where it was seamless. It takes momentum and widespread public support," he said. "Pittsfield is making those strides. It's a long process that will take years. Don't expect a continuous growth curve."

Fleming said several community leaders were talking yesterday about what can be done to save Spice.

"We wish there was something we could do," he said. "The restaurant serves the whole county."

Whaling said he is hoping his favorite food spot can reassess its goals and move forward in a downtown that boasts nearly 40 other restaurants. It seemed that every day they were open, Bernstein and Rosenthal were there, overseeing some aspect of the restaurant, from touting their latest dessert to training the staff.

Their entrepreneurial spirit was exactly what Pittsfield was looking for in the dark days, Whaling said.

"But we'll continue to grow, with or without them," he said. "But we hope they're with us."
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To reach Benning W. De La Mater: bdelamater@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6243
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Pittsfield Superintendent

"2 locals among final choices"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, March 16, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Two Berkshire County candidates, including one from Pittsfield, are among the three finalists selected by a search committee to replace outgoing Superintendent of Schools Katherine E. Darlington.

Pittsfield's current Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Howard J. Eberwein III; Melodie Goodwin, the director of curriculum for the North Adams Public Schools; and Michael Ludwell, the former superintendent of the Manchester (N.H.) School District were selected by the Superintendent Search Committee following preliminary interviews March 10.

The School Committee has scheduled final interviews with Eberwein at 5:30 p.m. on March 26, and with Goodwin and Ludwell on March 27 at 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., respectively. The interviews are open to the public. It is believed that they all will take place at Pittsfield High School. School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso could not be reached for comment last night.

The search committee chose to conduct preliminary interviews with only four of the seven candidates who applied to replace Darlington, who is leaving Pittsfield when her three-year contract expires June 30.

Reid Middle School Principal Beth Narvaez, who was chairwoman of the search committee, said the board considered a "variety of factors," including each candidate's fiscal and overall management ability, before selecting the finalists.

Narvaez said information received from both the applications and the interviews led the search committee to believe that Eberwein, Goodwin and Ludwell were best suited for the job.

"We didn't rank them," Narvaez said

Of the trio, only Ludwell has a doctorate, having earned it in philosophy from St. Louis University, where he also earned a degree as an education specialist.

Eberwein, who became deputy superintendent in July following four years as the principal at Pittsfield High School, expects to receive his doctoral degree in education policy, research and administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst this spring.

Goodwin has a master's degree in education in administration and supervision from the University of North Carolina in Pembroke.

Narvaez said candidates were not required to have a doctoral degree to apply, but had to have earned their certification to serve as a superintendent.

A native of Port Chester, N.Y., the 42-year-old Eberwein moved to the Berkshires in 1968 when his father, Howard J. Eberwein Jr., became the director of special education for Pittsfield public schools. He graduated from Wahconah Regional High School in 1983 and earned a bachelor's degree in biology/ chemistry from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He also holds a master's degree in educational leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.

After graduating from Skidmore, Eberwein taught at Mount Everett Regional School in Sheffield for one year before becoming a science teacher and varsity softball coach at Taconic High School in the fall of 1995. He taught and coached at Taconic before being appointed Pittsfield High School's principal in the summer of 2003.

"I'm excited, obviously," Eberwein said, referring to his selection as a finalist.

Goodwin, 46, was born in Springfield but lived "all over the world" as a youngster while her father, now a retired U.S. Army major, served in the military. She has served as the director of curriculum in North Adams for three years. Before coming to the Berkshires, she was a middle school principal in South Hadley. A psychology and education major at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Goodwin began her teaching career at age 21 and has taught at the elementary and middle school level in South Carolina, Vermont and New Hampshire.

"I applied because superintendent is the next step in my career as a professional," she said.

Ludwell served as a director of secondary education, as an assistant superintendent and as a high school principal in several Missouri school districts before becoming the superintendent in Manchester in 2002, where he has been actively involved in a major renovation project. Narvaez said she believes that Ludwell is currently retired.

He majored in history and education at Loyola University of Los Angeles and received a master's in education in administration/curriculum and instruction from the University of Montana, Missoula. Ludwell has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224
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Sunday, March 16, 2008
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Reader's COMMENTS:
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Howard Eberwein III DOESN'T LIVE IN PITTSFIELD and DOESN'T SEND HIS CHILDREN TO PITTSFIELD SCHOOLS! This is just some attempt at controlling our tax dollars so he can get a feather in his cap! "Look what I did Mommy and Daddy!" How can he know what's best for Pittsfield if his kids don't go to our schools and he doesn't even live here?????
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Howard Eberwein is an outstanding candidate for superintendant. As principal of PHS, he changed PHS into a well respected and safe environment for the children of Pittsfield. Look what has happened since his departure!!! Fights, bad publicity and dropping enrollments. Wake up Pittsfield and give the job to the person who knows the area and the best way to solve the problems.
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PBJ, The Mayor and The Eagle WANT you to think his departure is the reason for the spike in violence, but the fact is that he is a professional cover-up artist. But thanks for trying to wake us up all the way from Florida. We'll take it from here.
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Exactly, hire someone who will stop trying to heal the problems when then don't even live in Pittsfield! If he's so gung **** about fixing the problems at hand then he should "man up", move to Pittsfield and enroll his kids in the Pittsfield school system instead of hiding behind his rhetoric while living in Dalton! This is what happens when the news only reports the bad about the Pittsfield schools then Jake, I mean, Howard goes on Good Morning Pittsfield and talks about how we need a new school (taxpayers, open those wallets) to be innovative...blah, blah. PHS is a beautiful school and you could never build anything as stunning as that building in this day and age. Taconic is problematic (illogical flat roof for one), but the grounds are nice though. Eberwein III needs to admit he doesn't live in Pittsfield and that his kiddies go to Dalton schools before he can do anything for "the good of Pittsfield's school system".
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Jimmy Ruberto's Biography / (Propaganda)
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Since taking office in January of 2004, Mayor James M. Ruberto has directed the City of Pittsfield during one of the most exciting times in its history. New businesses have been moving in, and businesses already here are expanding. Since the beginning of 2004, hundreds of new jobs have been created in the city and with the addition of some fifty acres of new industrial space in the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority site, that trend will continue. In addition, Ruberto has pushed forward initiatives to bolster the city's downtown, which will continue to make Pittsfield more attractive to businesses and developers.

Ruberto has been a tireless advocate for economic development in the city, encouraging entrepreneurs to make Pittsfield home with targeted tax incentives. In addition, he has also pushed for businesses already in Pittsfield to grow by offering credits in exchange for new jobs. Ruberto encourages diversity in Pittsfield’s economic development, which includes businesses of various sizes, but with a common thread of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit – exemplified by the groundbreaking business model of new startup, WorkshopLive, some of the most sophisticated engineering work in the world being done at General Dynamics, and remarkable growth of Interprint, Inc.

Ruberto has been instrumental in establishing Pittsfield as a home of top cultural draws in the heart of the Berkshires. In 2006, the Tony-winning regional playhouse, Barrington Stage Company, relocated to the former Berkshire Music Hall for year-round performances. Work on the one-hundred year old Colonial Theatre culminated after a one million dollar investment from the City, spearheaded by Ruberto, which in turn, secured six million dollars in state tax credits. The Colonial opened in 2006 with the smash musical Rent, and will be a major venue for world-class performances and as a community hub. To further encourage growth and vibrancy, Ruberto helped establish an artist overlay district in the city which will allow artists to live and work on North Street and throughout the downtown.

In addition, Ruberto made major strides in creating a more efficient City government, working with the City Council, he successfully consolidated departments for $100,000 in annual savings to the taxpayers of Pittsfield, saved more than a million in just one year after negotiating with City workers to contribute more to the skyrocketing cost of health care, and saved nearly $1.5 million by convincing a major developer to foot the bill for sewer and water connections for a condominium project.

In late 2004, Ruberto led the effort which secured Pittsfield's permanent place in the history of our national pastime. After a great deal of research in the City Hall archives, Pittsfield was discovered to be the home and subject of the very first written documentation of the game of baseball. The theme of baseball has been one of the cogs in the revitalization of the City, as Pittsfield's historic Wahconah Park won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places

Ruberto was born and raised in Pittsfield, and his wife, Ellen Reynolds Ruberto, is also a native of the city. The son of Edith Sonsini Ruberto and the late Attorney Anthony J. Ruberto Sr., Jim is the brother of the late Anthony J. Ruberto Jr., former Berkshire District Attorney and former District Court Judge.

Mr. Ruberto attended St. Joseph's Grammar and High Schools. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Villanova University in 1968. Mr. Ruberto was awarded a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts in 1969 and has completed the coursework for a Doctorate of Business Administration at Golden Gate University.

For 30 years before taking office, Jim had been employed in plastics and plastic-related industries, during his career in the Sales and Marketing Department of DuPont. He served as Senior Vice President and Divisional President of Plicon Corporation, guiding this entrepreneurial firm to nearly quadrupled revenues over a 12-year period. At Rexene Corporation, a NYSE firm, Jim was an Executive Vice President and Divisional President of a $180 million global plastics packaging business. He also led Huntsman Packaging's $150 million North American flexible packaging business as its Senior Vice President and General Manager. In recent years, Jim has served as a consultant to companies in these industries.

Jim is a parishioner of St. Charles Church, a member of UNICO, the Elks Club, and the Sons of Italy.

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Spice
"Workers get options"
By Benning W. De La Mater and Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, March 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Although the future of the closed Spice restaurant remains uncertain, one of the owners said he will do what he can to find jobs for the out-of-work employees.

Meanwhile, Pittsfield officials said the city will not review the status of the restaurant's tax exemption for another year.

Last night, The Eagle received word that 37 Spice employees were handed their notices earlier this week. Reached on his cell phone while on business in California, Lawrence M. Rosenthal said, "That number seems awfully high."

"I don't know what the number is," he said, "but we have brought a lot of people over to Burger," another restaurant owned by Rosenthal and his partner, Joyce S. Bernstein. "We have also provided some names to three other area employers who are looking for workers, and I'm sure they will gobble them up."

Rosenthal declined to name the businesses. He did say that, with the exception of cooks and managers, the majority of the employees who were laid off were part-time, wait-staff help.

Head chef Douglas Luf will remain at Burger, but it is still uncertain whether Spice will ever reopen, Rosenthal said.

On the BerkshireWorks Web-site, Jacob's Pillow has posted an ad that reads: "Attention former Spice employees or anyone interested in working at America's First Dance Theater. You are cordially invited to attend a meet-and-greet recruitment with Jacob's Pillow ... on Monday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to noon at BerkshireWorks, 160 North St.

Department of Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said Spice's tax increment financing plan, or TIF, remains in place. It enables the owners of Spice not to have to pay taxes on the millions of dollars in improvements they made to the former Besse-Clarke building at 297 North St.

Ruffer's remarks came before the City Council's finance subcommittee on Wednesday night during a discussion of Pittsfield's fiscal 2007 economic development incentive program, which manages tax breaks for city businesses. The review covered only the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007.

"Next year at this time, we'll be sitting here assessing the consequences of the actions that are going on right now," Ruffer said.

Spice, which closed Tuesday, was still open when the previous fiscal year ended, and the restaurant had met all the requirements of its TIF agreement to that point, Ruffer said.

The city evaluates the status of each project on an annual basis, Ruffer said. Every business in the program is required to report its status to the state and federal governments based on its performance during the previous fiscal year.

According to Ruffer, Pittsfield has granted TIFs to 29 projects since the state created the incentive program in 1994, and 11 are still active, including three that were formed in fiscal 2007.

The design of the program is simple — businesses get a tax break, which in turn encourages them to make improvements to their facilities and to add jobs.

The city forgave $3.8 million in taxes from TIF programs in fiscal 2005, the last year for which figures were available. That figure is almost $4 million lower than the $7.7 million in tax revenue that the city had expected to forgive. There were 18 TIFs active at that time.

Under Mayor James M. Ruberto's administration, Ruffer said, the city has expanded the TIF program to include certified downtown redevelopment projects and vacant properties.

Spice falls into those latter two categories. In February 2005, the City Council granted a TIF to Two Seven Three North Street LLC that eased Spice's property tax abatement for 11 years. Under the terms of that agreement, Spice was required to pay the city $16,000 in annual property taxes, based on the assessed value of the former Besse-Clarke department store building at that time.

The agreement ensured that restaurant owners Joyce S. Bernstein and Lawrence M. Rosenthal would see no increase in their property tax bill until 2016 as the assessed value of their building rose because of the value of improvements they intended to make.

The owners said they planned to invest between $1 million and $2 million when the TIF was granted to Spice three years ago but had invested $8.5 million and created 52 jobs as of June 30, according to the fiscal 2007 report to the incentive program.

Although Spice was never directly mentioned Wednesday night, Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi said he did not think the city would be able to recoup the investment in a building that had been purchased for roughly $300,000 but that had undergone millions in improvements.

Ruffer agreed with Bianchi's assessment, but said that granting the TIF to Spice ensured that a previously blighted building would be renovated and restored regardless of the circumstances surrounding the restaurant's future.

"We've gained the construction of a blighted building in a prime commercial space in downtown," Ruffer said. "It's a significant benefit to the community. We've gained an incredible asset. There's no doubt that the property is more valuable than when it was blighted."

Ruffer said Legacy Banks and Interprint, which also have received TIFs from the city, are examples of other city businesses that have undergone rough patches since those agreements were awarded.

"It's very common for businesses to have ups and downs," Ruffer said.

The city also approved a TIF for GTL/Two Nine Seven North LLC in December 1998 for Link to Life, Rosenthal's business, which also is in the former Besse-Clarke building. That tax break also is set to expire in 2016. According to records on file at City Hall, Rosenthal pledged to create 77 jobs and to invest $1 million. As of June 30, the business had created 66 jobs and invested $1.4 million.

According to Ruffer, active projects in Pittsfield's TIF program were expected to create 177 jobs and to invest $36.2 million in fiscal 2007, but the actual results were much higher. The actual amount of jobs created was 301, while the amount of investment was $47.8 million.

Businesses that create jobs and make investments in real estate are eligible for the program. If approved, they can receive either state or local tax breaks.

Local tax breaks consist of either a forgiveness of a percentage of the increase in the assessed value that results from improvements to the real estate — as is the case with Spice — or as a percentage of forgiveness that is applied to both the land and the buildings in their entirety.

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Superintendent Search
"Only locals left: Two vie for superintendent post"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, March 22, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The next superintendent of the Pittsfield public schools will come from Berkshire County.

The lone finalist from outside the Berkshires, Michael Ludwell, the former superintendent of the Manchester (N.H.) School District, has dropped out of the running, School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso said yesterday.

That leaves Pittsfield's Deputy Superintendent Howard J. Eberwein III and Melodie Goodwin, the director of curriculum for the North Adams Public Schools, as the two remaining candidates.

The School Committee on Thursday held a special meeting in which the superintendent's search and Ludwell's decision was discussed, Amuso said.

"We wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page," she said. "We have two candidates, and we're still going forward."

Amuso said she was surprised that Ludwell dropped out, but added, "Typically, you get people who drop out who say they're coming."

One of the five finalists the search committee selected when Darlington was hired in 2005 dropped out before the final interviews took place.

Search Committee Chairwoman Beth Narvaez said last week that she believed Ludwell was retired. But according to the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader newspaper, Ludwell had abruptly resigned in November after it was determined he gave himself a 2 percent pay raise last summer without the school board's authorization. His resignation was effective on Dec. 31.

Ludwell had originally announced in August that he intended to retire when his contract expired at the end of the current school year. He had been superintendent in Manchester since 2002.

The Manchester Union reported that Ludwell was not eligible for a pay raise that two other district officials had approved in July 2006 because the Manchester school board had not submitted his performance evaluation.

"We actually found that out after he resigned," Amuso said yesterday. "It may have been a potential issue."

Ludwell collected some $1,000 in unauthorized pay before he resigned after being confronted by Manchester Mayor Frank Giunta and local school board chair Lesslee Stewart, according to the union leader. He agreed to refund the district before he left office on Dec. 31.

According to Amuso, Ludwell told Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Negotiations Barbara Malkus why he decided to leave. Malkus could not be reached for comment yesterday. Efforts to reach Ludwell were unsuccessful.

Final interviews with Eberwein and Goodwin will take place as previously scheduled. The School Committee will conduct its interview with Eberwein at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, while Goodwin will be interviewed at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. Both interviews will take place at Pittsfield High School and will be broadcast live on Pittsfield Cable Television. They are also open to the public.

One of the two finalists will replace Darlington as Pittsfield's superintendent when her three-year contract expires on June 30. Darlington notified the School Department last May that she would be leaving Pittsfield when her contract expired.

The School Department received seven applications to replace Darlington. The search committee chose to bring in four of the seven candidates for preliminary interviews on March 10. Following that procedure, Eberwein, Goodwin and Ludwell were chosen as the finalists.

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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Ruberto names 4 to board"
City, The Berkshire Eagle
Sunday, March 23, 2008

PITTSFIELD — In his role as the lead elected official to the Berkshire Workforce Area, Mayor James M. Ruberto recently made four appointments to the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board.

The new members are Sarah M. Vega, director of human resources for the Berkshire Life Insurance Co. of America; Cathryn Eldridge, chief learning officer of SABIC Innovative Plastics; Bob Wilson, agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 7; and Susan Driscoll, the vice president of human resources for Petricca Industries Inc.

Vega, a Pittsfield resident, began her career with Berkshire Life in 1989 in the underwriting/new business area. She has held a number of positions with the firm including new business team leader. Vega is also involved in several community organizations including the Berkshire Compact and the Workforce Solutions Group.

Wilson has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Works Local 7 for 20 years. He has spent most of his career as a journeyman wireman. He now serves as the business agent for IBEW Local 7.

Driscoll began her career in human resources at Berkshire Medical Center after graduating from college. In 1986, she accepted a position as human resource director at Berkshire Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of the Conifer Group. She has held other human resource positions in Boston, Providence, R.I., and Albany, N.Y. as the Conifer Group transitioned to Bank of New England, FleetBoston Financial and Bank of America.

Eldridge is employed by SABIC, which is a world leader in providing new materials and technologies that drive changes in the design and use of consumer industrial products.

The Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, one of 16 workforce investment boards throughout the state, oversees all publicly funded employment and training programs in Berkshire County, and serves as the link between employers, training providers and the work force.
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Armand V. Feigenbaum, left, and Donald Feigenbaum stand inside the new Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, which will open later in the week at the Berkshire Museum. (Darren Vanden Berge / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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Berkshire Museum
"Hall of Innovation set to open"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, March 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Stuart Chase is the keeper of a $10 million city secret. He can't wait to give it up, to everyone in Pittsfield, the Berkshires and beyond.

The executive director of the Berkshire Museum is readying for this week's reopening of the new and improved 105-year-old museum, including the broad-reaching $1.2 million Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation.

In addition to major building improvements, the new 3,000-square-foot gallery of invention, cultural evolution and social history embraces Berkshire ideas and inventions in the arts, filmmaking, education, the Internet, the local plastics industry, Shaker history, civil rights, literature and the engineer behind the Hoosac Tunnel in Adams.

And, of course, there is an exhibit space for the brothers Donald and Armand V. Feigenbaum: They are owners of General Systems Co. Inc., of Pittsfield, inventors of a business management program used worldwide, and contributors of $1.2 million toward what began as a $9 million capital campaign in 2006.

"I can't wait to share this with the world," said Chase last week. "Art, science and history — it's a whole new frontier and level of sophistication. Our window has been thrown open much wider.

"Pittsfield is due for some good news, and the Berkshire Museum is going to be it this week," he said.

The overall project, which has grown from $9 million to $10 million during the construction phase, has drawn $8.6 million in donations. Forty percent of funds have come from Pittsfield residents, businesses and other donors, and Berkshire County overall has provided 60 percent of funds, said Sherrill Ingalls, the museum's director of marketing.

The festivities begin Friday with a reception for museum members and charitable contributors, who are invited for a first view of the work. New members and donors are still welcome, and can attend Friday's event, said Sherrill Ingalls, Berkshire Museum's marketing director.

And next Saturday and Sunday, SABIC Innovative Plastics of Pittsfield, formerly GE, will sponsor free admission to the museum for all visitors. SABIC will also host a program for teachers and home-school educators on April 2, and will host other educational events as the season unfolds.

The exhibit goes well beyond the engineering genius of William Stanley, whose ideas spawned the original General Electric Co.

Among the exhibits will be Elizabeth Blodgett Hall, founder of the nation's first early college, Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington, in the 1960s; the founders of Tripod, a Williamstown-based Web-publishing company; the Berkshire plastics industry; novelist Herman Melville; special effects filmmaker Douglas Trumbull; and glass artist Tom Patti.

Ted Shawn, a modern dance pioneer, and Clare Bousquet, who established Bousquet Ski Area — the first to install night skiing lights — are also included in the exhibit.

Donald Feigenbaum said he and his brother were extremely impressed with the near-final results of the gallery that bears their name.

"Originally, we were looking in the direction of pure technology (innovation), but it was decided we'd better get involved with the broader scope of creativity and innovation in the area. The thing we are trying to stress is that there is something about this area that is very conducive to innovation and thinking outside the box."

Beyond the new gallery, Chase and Ingalls are most excited by what may seem a very un-sexy climate control system. In fact, the $3.3 million investment is considered vital to the museum's future.

Climate control means Berkshire Museum will now have broad access to other traveling exhibits whose museum lenders, in the past, would not share delicate art with the South Street facility.

"All we had was a heating system and one thermostat for 55,000 square feet," said Chase. "Museums would not lend us things because we did not have the right environmental controls, or even a loading dock."

Now the museum has both, and this summer, the museum will have a visit from the Whitney.

The Whitney Museum of Modern Art will lend nine portraits to the museum, for the first time, including a well-known Andy Warhol portrait of John F. Kennedy Jr. Other exhibits are sure to follow, and the museum is predicting significant visitor growth in coming years.

The museum can also now roll out collections that have been kept in storage — in particular, a Native American exhibit that includes delicate feathers, leather and textiles. That exhibit opens April 12, with several others.

The museum has raised $8,638,000 as of last Thursday, toward a final goal of $10 million. A $500,000 challenge grant is pending from the Kresge Foundation, if the museum can raise another $600,000, said Ingalls.

Tomorrow, the Pittsfield City Council will take up Mayor James M. Ruberto's request for a $500,000 allocation from the city's GE Economic Development Fund, for the museum project.

Barr and Barr Inc. is the general contractor for the job.

"I think the first impression people will get is how beautiful this building is — the terrazzo and marble floors have been restored, the wooden floors have been redone, the fountain will be running again, and it's all state-of-the-art," said Ingalls.

"People will be really surprised and pleased to see how we are celebrating Berkshire achievements in the new gallery," she said.
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To reach Ellen G. Lahr: elahr@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6240.
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If you go ...

Opening events for the Berkshire Museum's Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation.

Friday: 6 p.m., reception for donors and museum members.

Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., free admission to the museum.

Sunday: Noon-5 p.m., free admission to the museum.

Location: 39 South St., Pittsfield.

Information: www.berkshiremuseum.org, (413) 443-7171.
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Barrington Stage Company
"Capital drive in final act: Artistic head admits the economy makes it a challenge"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Spice restaurant on North Street closed last week. The Mount, author Edith Wharton's historic home in Lenox, is in financial trouble. The current economic climate is not good. Barrington Stage Company's Artistic Director Julianne Boyd knows all of this.

While acknowledging the current economic situation, Boyd yesterday also announced the official kickoff of the final "community phase" of Barrington Stage's capital campaign, a fundraising drive that the theater hopes will net $2.9 million by the end of 2009.

"There's no right time to finish off a capital campaign," Boyd said during a news conference at the Barrington Stage Company's main stage theater on Union Street. "But it's the right time for us."

"We're sort of between a rock and a hard place," Boyd said before adding, "I feel as though we're rounding third and are ready to slide into home."

Boyd said the $2.9 million is what is left of the $7.5 million that Barrington Stage needs to raise. The theater company borrowed $6.5 million to purchase and renovate its 520-seat theater and the adjacent Octagon House, where its offices are located. An additional $1 million was used to establish an endowment to ensure the company's future. Barrington Stage has raised $4.6 million of that $7.5 million since purchasing the two buildings for $785,000 in 2005. BSC officially moved to Pittsfield two years ago after spending its first 10 years in Sheffield.

If Barrington Stage can raise $1 million by the end of the current calendar year, the theater company's board of directors will contribute an additional $500,000, Boyd said. That would leave around $1.4 million for the theater to raise in 2009.

According to Boyd, Barrington Stage is currently carrying between $150,000 and $175,000 annually in debt, which comes directly out of the theater's operating budget.

"One thing that we want to do is retire the debt," Boyd said. "It's considerable at this point.

"... Having a theater doesn't mean it's paid for," she continued. "That's why we're here today."

Barrington Stage also received $500,000 in GE Economic Development Funds from the City of Pittsfield in August 2006 to renovate the theater balcony. The funding was contingent on Barrington Stage fulfilling four conditions — including raising of $500,000 in new capital — by last December. BSC received the funding in the form of a five-year loan, with 20 percent forgivable each year. If Barrington Stage meets those four conditions and maintains a theater in Pittsfield for five years, it doesn't have to pay the city back.

Spice is located on the corner of North and Summer streets, one block south of Barrington Stage. Boyd said the eatery's closing could affect the attendance of theater patrons who normally ate at the restaurant either before or after a performance.

"But there are other restaurants in Pittsfield," Boyd said. "I'm still hoping that Spice will come back in another incarnation."

During the news conference, TD Banknorth Regional President Jay Anderson presented Boyd with a check for $20,000, the final installment on the bank's $100,000 commitment to the theater's capital campaign. Following the news conference, Anderson said the $20,000 represents the last payment on a previous commitment, and will not be counted toward the $2.7 million that the theater needs to raise.

TD Banknorth helped fund the Barrington Stage production of "High School Musical" two years ago, and secured foundation dollars to support the company's Playwright Mentoring program, one of 17 youth arts and humanities initiatives from across the country that received awards from the White House in January.

According to Barrington Stage, the theater company has contributed more than $2.7 million to the Berkshire economy. More than 45,000 of its patrons stay at area hotels, eat at local restaurants, and patronize area merchants and tourist attractions, according to the theater's statistics.

Anderson told those in attendance to look at how Barrington Stage has progressed, and the dollars that have been spent both at the theater and in the surrounding area.

Boyd said the Octagon House was a "rundown crack house" when Barrington Stage purchased the property three years ago.

Referring to the renovations that Barrington Stage has performed on two formerly run-down buildings, Anderson said, "Think about what it does for Pittsfield."

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said Barrington Stage's commitment to working with the city's youngsters, including those who are considered to be "at-risk" through its youth programs, has helped Pittsfield in general.

"Barrington Stage is not only about renovating a building in downtown Pittsfield, it's about challenging Pittsfield and its partners on the West Side, and challenging youth," Downing said.

Mayor James M. Ruberto referred to Pittsfield as a "creative and innovative place." He said said BSC has brought both "professionalism and culture" to Pittsfield, and local and national recognition.

Tony Award-winning actress Idina Menzel is scheduled to appear at Barrington Stage for a solo performance on April 3.

"This is a tremendous opportunity as we look forward to say, 'Yes, that we know the Barrington Stage Company is deserving of our support because they provide so much entertainment and culture,'" Ruberto said.

Actress Debra Jo Rupp, who lives in Lee, and was a cast member of the BSC production of "Ring Round The Moon," said the renovation of the Union Street building reversed a national trend that has seen old performance spaces torn down.

"This theater is giving actors jobs," she said. "You have no idea how great this is."

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Pittsfield
"Officials: City likely spared drugs in water"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, March 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Location matters when it comes to municipal drinking water.

The six reservoirs that provide Pittsfield with its drinking water are located in rural areas that the city owns in Hinsdale and Washington. Several water experts believe the location of those sites have spared the city's drinking supply from the pharmaceuticals that found in the water sources of urban areas across the country.

A five-month study recently conducted by The Associated Press found a large variety of pharmaceuticals ranging from antibiotics to anti-convulsants to mood stabilizers and sex hormones in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas.

The concentrations of these pharmaceutical products are small, and have only been found when measured in quantities of billions or trillions, which are far below a medical dosage, according to The AP.

However, the presence of these particles, even in minute amounts, has raised questions regarding the long-term health of people whose drinking water comes from municipal water supplies. According to The AP, pharmaceuticals in the water are also believed to be the cause of severe reproductive problems in fish, kidney failure in vultures, and inhibited growth in algae.

Pittsfield is far from a major metropolitan area, but it is Berkshire County's biggest city, and is also considered to be an urban area. Commissioner of Public Works and Utilities Bruce Collingwood said he believes Pittsfield's drinking water does not contain pharmaceutical products because the location of its reservoirs prevents those particles from entering the water system.

Cleveland and Sackett reservoirs in Hinsdale, and Ashley Lake, and Farnham, Sandwash and Lower Ashley Intake reservoirs in Washington, also supply drinking water for Dalton, Lenox and Lanesborough.

"We're fortunate that our watersheds are way upstream of any discharges that we make from our wastewater treatment plant," Collingwood said.

Pittsfield's wastewater treatment plant is located off Holmes Road, in the southeast section of the city, which is far from the towns of Hinsdale and Washington.

'Toying with the idea'

Collingwood, currently compiling Pittsfield's 2007 water quality report, said the city has never tested its drinking water for pharmaceutical products. The Environmental Protection Agency requires cities and towns to test their drinking water supplies for contaminants on an annual basis, but testing for pharmaceuticals is not required by law, Collingwood said. The federal government has yet to set safety limits for drugs in water, according to The AP.

"I'm toying with the idea," Collingwood said. "I think I can anticipate the results. It's an additional expense that the city needs to make. I haven't researched how much that might cost.

"I don't believe that we have an issue based on the location of our water reservoirs," he added.

The Eagle earlier this month published three Associated Press stories on pharmaceuticals tainting public water supplies, including one that contained the results of The AP's five -month investigation. But Collingwood said he has received little response from city residents since the news was first made public.

"Ever since this story came out about a week or so ago, I think I've fielded one call, and I think it was from (Ward 4 Councilor) Mike Ward," Collingwood said.

Ward has posted Pittsfield's 2006 drinking water quality report on his Ward 4 Web site.

Bill Enser, the director of the Berkshire Enviro Lab in Lee, which has treated and tested several Berkshire County water systems, including Pittsfield's, said he agrees with Collingwood's analysis of Pittsfield's drinking water supply.

"My gut feeling is that he's accurate," Enser said. "Accurate based on my gut feeling and knowledge — I would say yes. But accurate based on subjective scientific data — I can't prove it because it hasn't been tested."

He said almost all of Berkshire County's public drinking water comes from reservoirs located in rural areas where it would be exempt from wastewater discharges, although houses are situated near some water supplies.

Testing for pharmaceuticals in municipal water systems is expensive, Enser said, because particles are measured in quantities of billions and trillions.

"We're talking very expensive testing," he said. "This stuff is more in the research area where the methodologies are still being developed. When you start testing for totally new chemicals, you need a lot of documentation to inferences you don't know about."

"In my opinion, many of these tests are in the experimental stages when it comes to the lower levels," Enser said, referring to tests that determine the quantity of pharmaceuticals measured in parts per billion or trillion.

Enser said he believes a state university is currently conducting a study of Western Massachusetts drinking water supplies where the percentages of pharmaceuticals is included. But he's not sure if Pittsfield is involved in that study.

Looking at the Hudson River

Charlie Wichmann, the manager of Culligan Water Conditioning in Lenox, who is also a certified water specialist for the Water Quality Association, an Illinois-based international trade association, said pharmaceutical particles are frequently found in the public water supplies of cities that obtain their drinking water from a river where a larger community is located upstream.

Using the Hudson River as an example, Wichmann said a community located upstream may discharge treated sewage into the water. This treated water then travels downstream, where it finds its way into another city's public water, he said.

According to The AP, people who take medication absorb some of the drug, but the rest passes through the body and is flushed down toilets, where it travels into the local wastewater supply. Wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Some of it is cleansed a second time at drinking water plants before it is sent on to consumers. According to The AP, most treatments do not remove all the drug residue.

Like Enser, Wichmann also believes pharmaceutical products would not be found in Pittsfield's drinking water.

"It's because of the source of their water," he said.

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"GE PCB cleanup plan calls for dredging of 10 mile stretch of Housatonic River" -
"GE plan calls for dredging of 10 mile stretch of Housatonic River"
By Associated Press, Wednesday, March 26, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Coverage

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ General Electric is proposing a 10-year project to dredge a stretch of the Housatonic River and remove sediment contaminated by its nearby manufacturing plant.

The plan, which requires approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, calls for dredging a 10-mile stretch of the river and storing the polluted sediment in a new landfill in Berkshire County.

GE used PCB — polychlorinated biphenyl — at its manufacturing facility in Pittsfield until 1977. Now banned, PCBs have been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer.

The company and the EPA began a massive cleanup of the river after a consent agreement was reached in 2000.

Public hearings were scheduled Wednesday and Thursday nights on the new proposal, which GE estimates would reduce levels of PCBs by 94 percent downstream.

The company says it would dredge 250,000 tons of sediment and soil from the river bottom, and 90,000 tons of soil from acreage in the flood plain around the river. It also would put 6 inches of clean sand along the river bottom to trap contaminated materials underneath.

GE spokesman Peter O’Toole said the Connecticut-based company and EPA have been cleaning the Housatonic for more than eight years. About two miles of river already has been dredged.

"We have given (the EPA) our best assessment, applied our best and brightest to finding a solution for this challenge," O’Toole told The Berkshire Eagle.

An EPA spokesman says the agency is still reviewing GE’s 800-page proposal and hopes to respond by summer.

Municipal officials in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge and Great Barrington say they want to know whether parts of the river in their borders will be included in the cleanup, and where the new sediment dump would be created.

"While I’m mayor, it will not be in Pittsfield," Mayor James Ruberto said.

Lenox Town Manager Gregory Federspiel said the town will submit comments to the EPA if necessary.

"Our long-term goal is to reclaim the river for recreational purposes," he said. "We haven’t delved into the pros and cons of how best to do that ... so we hope to get up to speed as we look at the report."

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Information from: The Berkshire Eagle, www.berkshireeagle.com
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Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1083017
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Pittsfield Superintendent Search
"Superintendent finalists outline vision for district"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, March 28, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The two finalists for the Pittsfield Superintendent of Schools position were interviewed inside the Pittsfield High School library last night by the seven School Committee members.

Pittsfield's Deputy Superintendent Howard J. Eberwein III and Melodie "Mel" Goodwin, the director of curriculum for North Adams Public Schools, are the two remaining candidates who emerged from a field of seven applicants.

The job is opening on June 30 when Katherine E. Darlington steps down. She notified the city last May that she would be leaving Pittsfield when her contract expired.

Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso said a decision on who gets the job will be made at a public hearing within "seven to 10 days," but first the committee will conduct on-site interviews with the candidates.

Eberwein became deputy superintendent in July following four years as the principal at Pittsfield High. He is working on a dissertation for his doctoral degree in education policy, research and administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which he expects to receive this spring.

A native of Port Chester, N.Y., the 42-year-old Eberwein moved to the Berkshires in 1968 and graduated from Wahconah Regional High School in 1983. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology/chemistry from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and a master's degree in educational leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Eberwein taught at Mount Everett Regional School in Sheffield for one year before becoming a science teacher and varsity softball coach at Taconic High School in the fall of 1995.

He called the superintendent's job "an incredibly important position not just for the city but for the entire county," and believes he is qualified because he's worked in all levels of the public education system.

He said creating an ethnically diverse teaching corps that mirrors the student body is something the city should strive for, and recruiting minority teachers to the area is crucial.

Eberwein said the school system needs to do a better job of communicating with city leaders and the media about its positive achievements.

He said controlling the dropout rate is the system's greatest challenge. He prefers one-on-one tutoring, but knows it can be expensive.

"We need 24/7 care for our at-risk students," he said. "We need support on the weekends and during the summer."

If budget crunches beset the system, Eberwein said he would first analyze the entire budget to see what areas could be trimmed. He would look to put technology purchases on hold before cutting any personnel.

"Nothing that affects classrooms," he said. "We have to protect the teacher-student relationship. Our resource allocation has to be linked to our goals."

Eberwein said he has strong relations with city officials, citing a recent talk with Mayor James M. Ruberto and police Capt. Michael Wynn concerning gangs in Pittsfield High School.

He supports community service as a graduation requirement, believes inspiring students is the most important job of a teacher, and feels that teachers should evolve with the help of professional development.

Eberwein said he is dedicated to the city of Pittsfield and would stay in the superintendent's job for six to nine years, or "for as long as you want me."

Goodwin, a psychology and education major at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, began her teaching career at age 21 and has taught at the elementary and middle school levels in South Carolina, Vermont and New Hampshire.

She has a master's degree in education, administration and supervision from the University of North Carolina in Pembroke. The 46-year-old was born in Springfield but lived "all over the world" while her father served in the military. Before coming to the Berkshires, she was a middle school principal in South Hadley.

Goodwin said she's qualified for the position because of her teaching years, an in-the-trenches experience of education and tough love. She dealt with gangs in schools, donning a black arm band and walking into a gang circle to break its hold on the school.

She's guided a school while it underwent construction and mentored an at-risk student whose first greeting was an extended middle finger. She also made her students pass a U.S. citizenship test before they could go on a field trip to Washington, D.C.

In regards to making school staff ethnically diverse, Goodwin said the administration must reflect the community.

She said the school system needs to market itself better, from how secretaries answer the phones to inviting the press to visit classrooms. At one school where she worked, real estate agents were invited in with their prospective home owners.

"We were selling the schools with real estate," she said. "You're selling public schools at all times."

Goodwin believes that resources like the Juvenile Resource Center are crucial to targeting at-risk students and motivating them. She supports looping, the joining of two grades under one teacher to strengthen relationships.

"Their relationships with adults are the biggest factor," she said. "They need great role models."

Goodwin said the most important job as superintendent is hiring great personnel, teachers who "care enough about children to go the distance."

She said she would commit to being Pittsfield's superintendent for at least 14 years. Goodwin said she was motivated to become an administrator because "I could do more for the children as an administrator than a teacher."

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(A Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Destroying a river to clean it"
March 30, 2008

FOR DECADES a GE factory complex in Pittsfield leaked polychlorinated biphenyls - suspected carcinogens better known as PCBs - into the Housatonic River. Under a consent decree with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the company has already dredged a couple miles of the river downstream from the plant to remove the chemicals, and it has more cleanup work to do.

Now GE is proposing even more intensive dredging for the next 5 miles, a stretch that winds through an Audubon sanctuary and a state wildlife preserve. Even advocates of getting the PCBs out of the river are asking whether GE is destroying a village to save it.

The portion of the river that has already been excavated and lined with retaining riprap stones is a poor advertisement for doing anything similar on the next stretch. What had been a tree-lined stream wandering through backyards is now a "ditch," as one environmentalist puts it. Residents and local officials will want to know why GE has rejected less disruptive methods, such as cleansing the sediment on site with equipment that allows immediate reuse of the material. That would eliminate the need to remove and replace more than 300,000 tons of sediment from the Housatonic and its flood plain. It would also eliminate need for a landfill for the sediment, something Mayor James Ruberto of Pittsfield has said he will not allow in his city.

There are other options. Timothy Gray, spokesman of the activist group Housatonic River Initiative, wants GE to try using enzymes from earthworms to break down pollutants on at least a quarter-acre site. A GE spokesman said the company has looked at worms and other microbial solutions for destroying PCBs and found they would not work at the scale needed and in the environment of a polluted river.

Gray also questions why, if dredging is the best method, the company is not proposing it for the next 5-mile stretch of the river beyond the sanctuary and state preserve, leading to a dammed pond in Lenox Dale. GE is proposing just to lay six inches of clean fill on the river bottom to trap contaminated sediment on that portion of the river.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society has not taken a definitive position on the plan, but it is concerned about how dredging would affect its 264-acre Canoe Meadows sanctuary, a site for bird-watching, paddling, hiking, and cross-country skiing. The area is home to bobolinks, osprey, great blue herons, wild turkeys, beaver, and otter.

Even GE acknowledges that under its proposal there will still be restrictions on eating fish from the river. So the public and EPA have every reason to wonder whether its plan's costs and benefits are anywhere near in balance.

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"Baseball talk of town"
Updated: 04/04/2008
By: Ryan Burgess
Capital News 9, Albany, N.Y. (- Covering the Berkshires)

PITTSFIELD, M.A. -- There's a story about baseball that starts in Pittsfield and ends in Williamstown.

"We're sitting on the site of the first college game that happened in 1859," said baseball historian Phil Massery.

That site is now a coffee shop, but 149 years ago, it was the dawn of a new era; the birthplace of college baseball.

"The College Hall of Fame is recognizing that Pittsfield Massachusetts is the birthplace of collegiate baseball," said First Home Plate co-founder Brian Johnson.

Now, 149 years later, the two teams that started it all will be back in Pittsfield to play ball. It's the 149th anniversary game between Williams and Amherst that happens next weekend.

"To think that it stated in Pittsfield with Williams College and Amherst, I'm sure they had no idea what they were starting and I don't think our guys quite have an understanding of what they're a part of. It's something they're going to look back on and say 'that was pretty special,'" said Williams College baseball coach Bill Barrale.

It's special because of the history, but with history comes controversy. Some say the game of baseball itself was created in Pittsfield, but not everyone agrees.

"Did we invent baseball here in Pittsfield? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. It probably had something to do with what was going on over in Europe at the time. They probably modified the game and made it more of a New England game," said Massery.

Inside the Pittsfield Public Library is a copy of the original 1791 Baseball Document. This is significant because this mentions the word "baseball" for the first time on public record.

"There's no debate on the fact that the term baseball was first used in Pittsfield. And secondly, there's no debate that the first intercollegiate baseball game was in Pittsfield," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.

"Cooperstown is definitely the bible of baseball. But we know for sure that Pittsfield is the Genesis of baseball," said Massery.

It's a debate about baseball that's been going on for centuries now. But two words seem to end the talk every time; Play ball.

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Baseball talk of town
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There's a story about baseball that starts in Pittsfield and ends in Williamstown.
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"Williams-Amherst to celebrate oldest college baseball game at Wahconah Park"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, April 05, 2008

PITTSFIELD — It was a simple gesture, an act of kindness done to settle a dispute that over time became history.

When Amherst College challenged rival Williams to a "friendly game of ball" in the summer of 1859, the two schools couldn't agree on a site until the Pittsfield Base Ball Club stepped up and offered its playing grounds, a field located near the intersection of Maplewood Avenue and North Street.

That is how Pittsfield came to host the first intercollegiate baseball game ever played in the United States. Next Saturday, the College Baseball Hall of Fame intends to recognize Pittsfield for that achievement.

A representative of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, former major leaguer Neal Heaton, will officially commemorate Pittsfield as the "Birthplace of College Baseball" before Williams and Amherst play each other at 1 p.m. at Wahconah Park. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children.

The Hall of Fame, which is located in Lubbock, Texas, will also make up a special sign for Wahconah Park that contains the logo "Birthplace of College Baseball." The first known reference to the game of "base ball" in North America also occurred in Pittsfield in 1791.

The Dan Duquette Sports Academy in Hinsdale will be sponsoring a free College Baseball Hall of Fame Youth Baseball Clinic that begins at 10:30 a.m. the day of the game. The clinic will be free and open to all youth sports leagues in Pittsfield and the surrounding area.

The ceremony recognizes the 149th anniversary of the first intercollegiate baseball game, which took place on July 1, 1859, but Mayor James M. Ruberto said it is being done as a "dry run" for a possibly bigger celebration recognizing the 150th anniversary in 2009. Amherst won the 1859 game, 73-32, in 25 innings after Williams blew a 9-1 lead.

"It's a warm-up; we're trying it out for this year," Ruberto said after a news conference yesterday announcing this year's event. "We're looking at giving the schools an opportunity to see what it would be like this year in anticipation for next year."

Ruberto said he would be interested in having Pittsfield host a formal ceremony for the game's 150th anniversary, but added that decision would have to be worked out among the two schools and the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

"I hope this game at Wahconah Park leads to an event next year," Ruberto said.

Dan Duquette, who played baseball at Amherst, his cousin Jim Duquette, a former Williams baseball player, and former Williams baseball player Mike Barbera, a lobbyist in Washington, were instrumental in setting up next Saturday's festivities. The Duquette cousins both held general manager positions in the major leagues.

Barbera, who graduated from Williams in 1989, is a lobbyist for the America Continental Group, which represents halls of fame for different college sports. Having played for Williams at Wahconah Park — "I have a fondness for Wahconah," he said — Barbera e-mailed the College Baseball Hall of Fame to see if they were interested in the Williams-Amherst rivalry and Pittsfield's historic ballpark.

When the College Baseball Hall of Fame expressed an interest, Barbera said he contacted the Duquettes.

Barbera said he and the Duquette cousins met in Massachusetts last summer, and Dan, currently the president of New England Collegiate Baseball League's Pittsfield Dukes, spoke with Williams' officials regarding the possibility of moving the baseball team's home game with Amherst this year to Pittsfield.

Barbera then met with Ruberto in Pittsfield last August.

"The mayor was extremely excited about it," Barbera said. "And it was kind of away we went."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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Pittsfield
"Eberwein picked for superintendent job"
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, April 10, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The search for the next superintendent of schools ended last night, with Dr. Howard J. Eberwein III, the "homegrown candidate," receiving a unanimous vote from the School Committee.

The school district now will enter into contract negotiations with Eberwein, and if the talks go as planned, he will succeed Dr. Katherine E. Darlington, the outgoing superintendent, on July 1.

Eberwein, who currently is deputy superintendent of Pittsfield Public Schools, was chosen over Melodie Goodwin, the director of curriculum for North Adams Public Schools.

Before the roll call vote was taken, School Committee member and Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who took part in the search process, said both candidates were "impressive," and that Goodwin had a lot of support from her fellow administrators in North Adams.

"If you looked at the interviews (of both candidates), they were very similar," Massimiano said. "But the nice thing about (Eberwein) is that he's here. For me, for all of us on the School Committee, we've watched him progress."

Eberwein came to the district in 1994 as a Taconic High School science teacher and softball coach. He became deputy superintendent in July, after four years as principal at Pittsfield High School. He recently received his doctorate in education policy, research and administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Amuso said she was confident that Eberwein would "continue on the foundation that Dr. Darlington laid down," noting that it was easier for her to lead the School Committee because of Eberwein's "incredible depth of data (knowledge). He brings it to us."

Committee member Daniel Elias suggested that the idea of an "outside candidate" had its appeal; sometimes the "dirty laundry" of an in-house hire is all too well-known. Not so in Eberwein's case.

"He has no faults," Elias said. "We need to create an environment for him to succeed."

Ex-officio School Committee member Mayor James M. Ruberto commended Darlington for her work in the district, stating that her work reflected on her successor.

"We've seen solid instructional leadership under Dr. Darlington, and we'll see solid instructional leadership under Dr. Eberwein," Ruberto said. He thanked Darlington for the "mentoring skills" she brought to Eberwein.

"You will truly be missed," he said.

After her three-year contact expires in June, Darlington will be moving to Panama, where she was born and raised.

Eberwein, who was asked to leave the meeting so the vote could be taken, said he was honored by the committee's recommendation.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to talk about a contract and lead the district," he said. "Every new position is a different challenge."
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To reach Jessica Willis: jwillis@berkshireeagle.com (413) 528-3660
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"The new superintendent"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, April 11, 2008

In its unanimous selection of Howard J. Eberwein III to become the new school superintendent, the Pittsfield School Committee chose someone who after 14 years in the district should have first-hand knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the city's schools. That should serve him well in what are sure to be challenging years ahead.

Just as a baseball team will hire a disciplinarian as manager to follow a so-called "players' manager," or vice versa, the School Committee replaced Katherine Darlington, who had come to Pittsfield from outside the Berkshires, with someone familiar with the city and familiar to students and parents. An outsider can introduce new ideas to a district and evaluate teaching methods from a fresh perspective, which Ms. Darlington did to an extent, but the superintendent didn't become closely involved in the community and never overcame the impression that she had one foot out the door almost from the minute she put one foot in the door.

There is no doubting Mr. Eberwein's involvement in the schools and in the city, but an insider has to prove that he has not overly beholden to long-time colleagues or tied to familiar approaches that may have outlived their usefulness. Otherwise, the familiarity that is a selling point can become a negative. Mr. Eberwein, who was chosen over Melodie Goodwin, the director of curriculum for the North Adams Public Schools, doesn't have a great deal of administrative experience, though his brief stewardship as deputy superintendent should help prepare him for the top spot.

Pittsfield's schools are facing a variety of issues, from raising standardized test scores in the middle schools, to instances of violence at Pittsfield High School, to the possibility of consolidating the city's two high schools into one. As Mr. Eberwein confronts these issues we hope that he, as well as the administrators and principals who work with him, will be as open as possible with students, parents and the city.

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"MCLA inducts 14 into business administration honors society"
iBerkshires.com - April 11, 2008

NORTH ADAMS, MA – Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) recently inducted William Hines Sr., former CEO of Interprint, Inc. of Pittsfield, as an honorary member of Delta Mu Delta, a national honors society for Business Administration students.

In addition, 13 MCLA students – Elena M. Borosky, Edward M. Cano, Melissa Ann Erman, Elizabeth M. Farrell, Stephanie Harrington, Kimberly A. Hendricks, Corey Anne Kielb, Christopher Lepotakis, Bettye June Liberty, Carla Marie Thomas, Robert D. Waltermire Jr. and Karen M. Widrick – were inducted into MCLA’s Zeta Zeta chapter of the honors society.

To be inducted, students must complete 60 credits within the business administration program and maintain a minimum 3.25 grade point average. Hines was selected for his outstanding achievements in business. He founded Interprint Inc. in 1986. The Interprint group has facilities in Germany, Malaysia, Italy, Poland, China, and Russia, in addition to the Pittsfield location. Interprint Inc. is the North American market leader of printed papers for the decorative laminating industry.

The Western Mass Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame presented Hines the Achievement award for Berkshire County in 2001. Interprint, Inc. was presented the Manufacturing Achievement Award by the Mass Manufacturing Extension Partnership in 2002. In 2004, Hines was honored with the Governor’s Inner City Investment Award for leadership and job creation in the city of Pittsfield, and in November 2005, Interprint Inc. was presented the Massachusetts Alliance for Economic Development Economic Impact Award in Boston.

Hines is an active member in the Pittsfield and Berkshire County community. He is past board chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, past president and co-founder of the Berkshire Applied Technology Council, board chairman of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, also is on the boards of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Alliance For Economic Development, the Hancock Shaker Village, Berkshire Economic Development Corp., MCLA Foundation, and has headed Mayor Ruberto’s Jobs for Pittsfield Initiative.

For more information on Delta Mu Delta, go to www.deltamudelta.org

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Pittsfield Parks Director James McGrath stands on the bank of the Housatonic River near Mill Street in Pittsfield. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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Pittsfield
"Westside Riverway planned"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, April 14, 2008

PITTSFIELD — There is a natural habitat in an urban setting on the west side of Pittsfield that few know exists.

The west branch of the Housatonic River flows silently through this area. Although five city parks line this route, most of the river is obscured by trees, houses that in some cases almost hug the shoreline, an old dump, and vacant, abandoned mills that serve as silent reminders of the city's industrial past.

City officials hope to change all that by restoring the area's natural environment through a variety of measures, including the establishment of open spaces, trails, and walking and bicycle paths that the community can access between Wahconah Park and the Wild Acres Conservation Area on South Mountain Road.

Plans call for a "Westside Riverway" along the west branch of the Housatonic between Wahconah Park and Clapp Park on West Housatonic Street. The west branch of the Housatonic begins near Wahconah Park, where the streams that flow from Onota and Pontoosuc lakes intersect.

"The river is just an important natural resource, but over the years, the neighborhood has developed without the realization that the river's there," said James McGrath, Pittsfield's parks, open space and natural resources program manager. "A lot of times you can't even see it.

"Our goal is to let people know that the river is there, that it is an important asset, and that it should be celebrated. It's a wonderful natural resource that a lot of areas don't have."

This is an ambitious long-term project — the target date for completion is 2020, city officials said. (Mayor James M. Ruberto even refers to the initiative as Project 2020).

It will involve several aspects of Pittsfield's revitalization efforts, including numerous community development projects that coincide with housing and urban renewal initiatives on the city's West Side, land takings related to the expansion of Pittsfield Municipal Airport, the renovation of Wahconah Park, and the removal of both contaminated soil along the river and of the 88-year-old Tel-Electric dam, which spans the west branch of the Housatonic River behind the Eagle Clock Tower building upstream of the Mill Street bridge.

"We are trying to look at this in a realistic sense," Mayor James M. Ruberto said. "This isn't a project that's going to be done today, tomorrow or a year from now."

Ruberto said the project's completion will rely on McGrath's ability to obtain grants and on Department of Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer's ability to bring her department's initiatives into the mix.

Ruffer said the city has begun working with the West Side Steering Committee. One idea under discussion is the formation of a pocket park that would open up an area along the river near Dewey Avenue.

"There are a number of parcels along that stretch that have come into tax title," Ruffer said.

"Our goal is to establish the West Side into a neighborhood of property owners who live and work and can recreate in the city without having to access cars or other transportation," Ruberto said. "Project 2020 fits as part of the entire neighborhood revitalization."

"I think the thing we really want to stress is that, when people think of the greenway, they think of a bike path or a pedestrian trail along the whole stretch of river," added McGrath. "That may not be a possibility here because of the whole geography of the area. The west branch flows through some real dense neighborhoods and residential properties that abut the river. It may not be possible to get a bike path or walkway. We're looking at a number of distinct projects that become (the greenway) in their sum."

The idea for the greenway began a few years ago when McGrath began exploring ways of removing the Tel-Electric Dam, which impedes the flow of the river. Ways of opening up the city's waterways also were discussed when members of the American Institute of Architects visited Pittsfield for three days in September 2005.

McGrath then applied for a grant offered by the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs through its Urban Rivers Program. Pittsfield was accepted. Along with the funding, the state supplies a consultant to travel to a community and help define a greenway plan.

The state sent Goody Clancy of Boston, one of the country's leading architecture, planning and preservation firms. Goody Clancy, which has assisted Brown, Princeton and Yale universities on preservation projects, scheduled two community meetings, known as "charrettes," in Pittsfield last May to gather input.

The information gathered at the meetings was used to create a wall map outlining a vision of what the Westside Riverway would look like.

"That's the overall vision, the finished project," McGrath said, referring to the wall map. "Now we've moved from the vision plan into implementation. There are a number of projects that we have in the pipeline towards implementing that vision. ... The idea is that we continue to make improvements all along the Westside Riverway."

David Spillane, Goody Clancy's director of planning and urban design, said that all of the suggestions for the Westside Riverway are doable. Spillane said Goody Clancy has worked with eight state communities since the Urban Rivers Program began in 2002. Some of those projects were big, while others were small.

"I think as things go forward, they get done in small pieces, and after awhile, they turn into something larger," Spillane said.

The state Department of Fish and Game's Riverway's Program listed the removal of the Tel-Electric Dam as one of four county river initiatives considered to be priority projects last year. McGrath said last year that it could cost as much as $2 million to remove the dam. The city has $750,000 slated for that purpose from the Natural Resource Trustees as part of the GE consent decree to clean up the Housatonic River, but the total cost of removing the dam depends on the amount of sediment built up behind it, which an engineer will study beginning this summer, McGrath said. It is possible that the dam could be removed in either 2010 or 2011, he added.

In December, McGrath said that 90 percent of the state grant funding, approved by the City Council at the end of last year, is targeted for fiscal 2009, which begins July 1.

The proposed Housatonic River Museum, which will be located in front of Wahconah Park, a couple of hundred yards from the river's west branch, is beginning to take shape. Plans for the 12,000-square-foot building have been completed.

Ruffer said the city expects discussions regarding permitting for the museum to take place within 60 to 90 days. The museum is expected to open within the next two years.

Plans for the greenway between Clapp Park and Wild Acres, which partially will follow the southwest branch of the Housatonic River, include the formation of a trailway and an environmental education center at Wild Acres, said Caleb Mitchell, the city's conservation agent.

The City Council recently approved the acceptance of $250,000 from the National Resources trustees for a parcel along the southwest branch of the Housatonic between Clapp Park and Barker Road, but the sale of that parcel still is being negotiated, Mitchell said.

The city also has obtained several other plots that will be added to the greenway through land takings associated with the airport expansion project, Mitchell said.

Ideas and plans

Some ideas for the Westside Riverway, gathered from public meetings in Pittsfield last May:

1. Improve river access and trail connections at Wahconah Park.

2. Take steps toward enhancing the King Street landfill as a community asset/wildlife habitat.

3. Target municipal resources to improve water quality and enhance river use.

4. Recognize the river as the "heart of the neighborhood" between Linden and West streets.

5. Improve storm-water practices along Hurlbut and West streets.

6. Create new parks and greenway connections in the Tel-Electric dam area on Mill Street.

7. Create river access and develop trail connections at Clapp Park.

8. Create new greenway and river connections in the Boylston Street area.

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"GE river plans stay under scrutiny"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, April 14, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Located one mile from downtown Pittsfield, Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary contains 262 acres of fields, wetlands, woods and croplands, and three miles of nature trails that are adjacent to the Housatonic River.

Beavers, otters and wild turkeys live here. Several varieties of birds, including bobolinks, ospreys and great blue herons, can be seen at various times of the year. The Massachusetts Audubon Society considers Canoe Meadows to be one of this area's most productive birding locations.

But this scenic area also is home to PCBs. It's part of the five-mile area between Fred Garner River Park on Pomeroy Avenue and Woods Pond in Lenox that General Electric Co. now plans to dredge for PCB contamination. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are considered a probable cause of cancer.

GE recently released a proposal that would place the roughly 227,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment that it plans to dredge from this five-mile section of the river in a still-yet-to-be determined location near the river.

The City Council responded last week by unanimously approving a petition opposing the establishment of another landfill in either Pittsfield or Berkshire County. The consent decree that required GE to clean up PCB contamination in Pittsfield allowed for the formation of two current landfills — Hill 78 behind Allendale Elementary School and Building 71 on New York Avenue.

Opposition to those two areas from city residents has been loud and fierce at times, and Mayor James M. Ruberto already has publicly stated his opposition to another landfill within the city limits.

Leaving an area such as Canoe Meadows in its current state is one reason why the petition was filed, said Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward, who submitted the document with Councilor at large Kevin J. Sherman.

"This is a whole different section of river," Ward said. "It's a totally wild area, where you have a fragile ecosystem."

The east branch of the Housatonic River, which was dredged during the first phase of GE's river cleanup project, flows through a more residential and industrial area than the stretch currently under consideration.

"And it was more contaminated," Ward said. "There were more PCBs."

"A lot of people spend a lot of time on that river," Ward said, referring to the stretch between Canoe Meadows and Fred Garner Park. "I kayak it, too. From Holmes Road to Fred Garner Park you see deer and beavers. It's remarkable how much wildlife is in there."

Instead of dredging this section of the river, and interrupting the area's fragile ecosystem, Ward would be more in favor of having GE use different technologies to neutralize the PCBs instead.

"What we're really asking for is for them to spend money on low impact science," Ward said.

The petition, which the City Council unanimously approved on April 8, officially states the city's opposition to GE's landfill proposal. It will be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently reviewing GE's plan, to be included as part of the EPA's public comment process, which ends May 20.

The city's opposition will be sent to the EPA's Rest of the River Project Manager Susan Svirsky in the form of a brief letter. (City residents can send their opinions to Svirsky at svirsky.susan@epamail.epa.gov.)

"While we encourage the EPA to consider alternatives beyond those presented by GE, the current proposal to create more landfills is absolutely not acceptable to our community," the letter states in part.

The letter requires the signatures of all 11 councilors before it can be sent to the EPA, but not everyone had signed it by the end of last week.

"It should be ready to go by Friday," Sherman said.

Under the terms of the consent decree with the city that was completed eight years ago, the EPA can seek changes or amend GE's plan and order a course of action. GE has the right to appeal in federal court.

Both Sherman and Ward said reaction from the public to their petition has been substantial. Each councilor has received copies of 20 e-mails that residents have sent to Svirsky.

"The response I got initially was unbelievable," Sherman said.

"Not one person e-mailed me back and said (the current cleanup proposal) should be done like phase one," Ward said.

Sherman said he has received phone calls from residents who are interested in having U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and U.S. Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry weigh in on GE's new proposal.

"It's kind of snowballing," he added.

Before GE presented the details of its current river cleanup plan in Lee on March 27, Ward asked Ward 4 residents on his Web site whether they were in favor of having the river dredged further. He said that slightly more than half of the respondents were in favor of further dredging, but that the question was posed in a yes-no format and without the mention of a possible landfill.

"A lot of people had a lot of caveats," Ward said. "There was a lot of 'Yes, but.'

"I think for a lot of people it was a kind of a knee-jerk vote," he added. "The river's dirty, let's clean it — yeah."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"G. Richard Bordeau Retiring After[...]"
iBerkshires.com - April 14, 2008, North Adams,MA,USA

PITTSFIELD – Mayor James M. Ruberto announced today that G. Richard Bordeau will be retiring as the Director of Finance and Treasurer on Thursday, April 17, [2008],...
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Pittsfield Treasurer and Director of Finance G. Richard Bordeau will retire Thursday. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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Pittsfield
"City treasurer will retire this week"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City Treasurer and Director of Finance G. Richard Bordeau, who presided over one of the most tumultuous financial periods in the city's history, will retire Thursday, the mayor's office announced yesterday.

Although the announcement comes just two months before the city's fiscal 2009 budget is presented for approval, Bordeau said a transition plan has been in effect since he first notified Mayor James M. Ruberto of his intentions more than a year ago.

Bordeau will be replaced on an acting basis by city accountant Susan G. Carmel, who worked with him on the first phase of the current budget process, which began in January.

"She has been involved in the last three budgets, but very much involved in this budget," Bordeau said. "I thought it was important as part of the transition for me not to do all of the work, and for my successor to be very actively involved in this budget, because we learn by doing.

"It helped her, my working with her up to this point, and I think this is the right time in terms of timing. April was a very good time to actually turn this budget over to her. I'll be available for any questions that she, or the mayor, may have regarding the budget."

A Taconic High School graduate, Carmel was hired as city accountant three years ago this Saturday. She also served as treasurer for the town of Lenox between 1988 and 1992 and has worked in the private sector for KB Toys.

"It's definitely big shoes to fill," Carmel said yesterday about replacing Bordeau. "I only hope I do as good a job as he did. I look forward to the opportunity."

Carmel also will continue to serve as city accountant at least through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Ruberto said yesterday.

When he took his current position in 2001 during the depths of the city's financial crisis, Bordeau said his goal was to work with the mayor and the City Council to "put the city on a solid financial footing."

A personal goal was to retire between the ages of 60 and 62.

"I'll be 62 in November," he said.

A Pittsfield native who worked for the city in various capacities for more than 30 years, Bordeau was chairman of the Board of Assessors in January 2001 when he was named acting treasurer and director of finance following the resignation of his predecessor, David A. Kiley. Kiley resigned less than 24 hours after city officials discovered that the city's fiscal problems had left Pittsfield with a $6.2 million budget deficit.

Four months after Bordeau replaced Kiley, the city's auditor told the City Council that Pittsfield's failure to raise taxes for a number of years, coupled with inaccurate information about its own accounts and expenses, had led to the financial crisis. The city's finances were investigated by the state attorney general's office, but no charges were ever filed.

"It was very, very difficult at first," Bordeau said.

As a partial remedy to its debt, the city sought permission from the state to borrow up to $10 million to cover the budgetary shortfall.

The state allowed the loan under the condition that Pittsfield's finances be supervised by an oversight board controlled by the state Department of Revenue. That board supervised Pittsfield's finances until 2005.

Carefully crafted budgets over the past four years have allowed the city to restore its reserve funds to $5 million, said Bordeau, who was appointed treasurer and director of finance on a permanent basis in 2002.

"There's been some tax increases in the 4 percent range, around $100 (per year)," he said. "But we haven't gone overboard on spending. The budgets have been very, very scrutinized by both the mayor and City Council and by the folks here at finance to see if there were areas where the city could do things more efficiently."

"I'm definitely going to miss Dick," Ruberto said. "I can't thank him enough for the service he gave to the city, particularly during the last four years with me."

In written statements released by the mayor's office, former City Council presidents Thomas E. Hickey Jr. and Richard A. Scapin also thanked Bordeau for his service.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Pittsfield Finance Director Retires"
Staff reports -iBerkshires- April 16, 2008

PITTSFIELD — G. Richard Bordeau, who served the city for nearly 30 years, will be retiring as the director of finance and treasurer on Thursday, April 17.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Pittsfield over the past 30 years," said Bordeau in a statement released by Mayor James M. Ruberto's office. "The people here at City Hall and all municipal employees have been a great group to work with and I wish them all every success in the future."

Bordeau stepped into the position during the city's worst fiscal crisis in recent memory. Back in 2001, Pittsfield was facing a $6 million deficit and had to borrow $10 million from the state to cover its shortfall.

The city's recovered since then and currently has a reserve of $5 million.

"I thank Dick for his years of dedicated service to the city of Pittsfield," said Ruberto in a statement. "Working with him for the past four years, I am amazed by the amount of institutional knowledge that he has about the city and the working of government."

According to reports in The Berkshire Eagle, the Pittsfield native had informed the mayor of his decision to retire a year ago. It was a personal goal, he told The Eagle, to retire between the ages of 60 and 62; he will turn 62 in November.

Bordeau began working in the city's Health Department as a registered sanitarian in 1974, after earning his bachelor's degree in biological science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After six years, he enrolled in the masters of organization and management program at Antioch New England in Keene, N.H.

He returned to Pittsfield in 1984 as commercial development manager in the Department of Community Development, serving for two years before joining the Assessors' Office. He was appointed to the Board of Assessors by then Mayor Charlie Smith. He was elected to the post and served as chairman until being named to his current post in 2001.

He will be replaced in the interim by city accountant Susan G. Carmel.

Two past City Council presidents, Richard Scapin and Thomas Hickey, both praised Bourdeau in written statements.

"What I admired most was his patient ability to teach mayors and city councilors the art of municipal finance," said Hickey. "It was always a pleasure to work with him. He made it fun."

Scapin said, "I enjoyed working with such a professional and straightforward individual; he will be missed."

Bordeau retires tomorrow and on Friday plans to travel north to do some fly fishing. When asked what he plans to do past Friday, he said, "Pretty much anything I want, when I want."

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Pittsfield City Council
"Ruberto request to be reviewed"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto's request to allocate $500,000 from the General Electric Development Fund to the Berkshire Museum will be considered by city officials for the first time tomorrow night when a City Council subcommittee reviews the proposal.

The full council recently referred Ruberto's request to its community and economic development subcommittee for further review. Tomorrow's meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.

During his inauguration speech in January, Ruberto said he planned to ask the council to approve the allocation so that the 105-year-old museum can qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant that was awarded by the prestigious Kresge Foundation last October.

To receive the foundation grant, the museum is required to complete its $9.5 million "Windows on the World" capital campaign by May 1. As of yesterday, it had raised $8.9 million, $600,000 short of its goal, said marketing director Sherrill Ingalls. She said the museum has some pledges that it hasn't received yet.

Ingalls said in January that if the museum does not reach its fundraising goal by May 1, it will not receive the foundation grant and cannot reapply for it.

"We do need the money," Ingalls said yesterday. "The city of Pittsfield, through its individuals and businesses, has really supported this capital campaign."

Subcommittee Chairman Matthew M. Kerwood could not be reached for comment.

If the subcommittee recommends the proposed allocation to the City Council, the full council will consider the proposal on April 22, its only meeting before the May 1 deadline.

Established in 1924, the Michigan-based Kresge Foundation is a $3 billion national foundation that is intended to build stronger nonprofit organizations by catalyzing their growth, helping them connect with their stakeholders and challenging them with grants that leverage greater support.

The Berkshire Museum was one of 82 organizations in 29 states awarded a total of $45.5 million in October by the Kresge Foundation's board of directors. It was one of only five organizations in Massachusetts that were chosen to receive the funding.

The GE Economic Development Fund contained an available balance of $4.6 million as of Monday, according to records on file in City Hall. Formed eight years ago as part of the mammoth consent decree that finalized the PCB cleanup settlement, the economic development fund is made up of the $1 million in annual payments that GE is required to pay the city of Pittsfield over the 10-year period dating back to 2000.

The city is not required to use the funds for any specific purpose, but the council so far has granted the biggest expenditures to cultural project/entertainment venues such as the Colonial Theatre, Barrington Stage Company and the proposed Beacon Cinemas.

In other business, the subcommittee will reconvene a public hearing on the Urban Housing Incentive-Tax Increment Financing Zone, an economic incentive program that is intended to encourage the use of residential development as a catalyst for the revitalization of commercial areas.

The subcommittee originally discussed the proposal on April 2 but voted to continue the public hearing until tomorrow to study the initiative more thoroughly.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224
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"Berkshire Museum fund request halved"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, April 18, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A City Council subcommittee will recommend the Berkshire Museum receive $250,000 from the GE Economic Development Fund — half of the allocation that the mayor had originally requested.

Mayor James M. Ruberto had originally asked the City Council to consider a $500,000 allocation to the museum, but Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer said that, "after a great deal of deliberation," the mayor had decided to reduce his request to $250,000.

Ruffer referred questions regarding why the mayor had decided to reduce the proposed allocation back to Ruberto, who could not be reached for comment last night.

The amended request was submitted through the City Clerk's office so that it could be included on Tuesday's City Council agenda, Ruffer said.

The amended amount will appear on the full council's agenda, but because the original order was for $500,000, the community and economic development subcommittee voted 3-2 in favor of sending the modification back to the mayor's office. Subcommittee Chairman Matthew M. Kerwood and at large councilors Peter M. Marchetti and Kevin J. Sherman voted in favor, while Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop and Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi were opposed.

Ruberto had originally asked the council to approve a $500,000 allocation so that the Berkshire Museum could qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant from the prestigious Kresge Foundation that was awarded last October.

To receive the foundation grant, the Berkshire Museum is required to raise $9.5 million for its "Windows on the World" capital campaign by May 1. Executive Director Stewart Chase said the Berkshire Museum has raised $8.9 million so far. The museum needs to raise $10 million to complete the second phase of its renovation program.

During a power-point presentation, Chase and the museum's director of interpretation Maria Mingalone stressed the educational and cultural benefits that the 105-year-old nonprofit has provided the city. Of the 600 donations that the museum has received in its capital campaign so far, 48 percent are from Pittsfield residents, he said. The museum has received $6.9 million in private donations, including $5.4 million from city residents, Chase added.

Formed eight years ago as part of the mammoth consent decree that finalized the PCB cleanup settlement, the economic development fund is made up of the $1 million in annual payments that GE is required to pay the city of Pittsfield over the 10-year period dating back to 2000. As of yesterday, the GE fund contained an available balance of $4.6 million.

While conceding that the Berkshire Museum has been a considerable community asset over the years, Bianchi said the council needed to be more cautious on how it allocates funds from the account because it may need the funding to attract businesses to Pittsfield.

"The Berkshire Museum is a wonderful place," he said. "But it has the ability to attract donations. Nobody's going to have enough money to have XYZ company to come here ... I think we have got to be stewards of this money. We have to be prudent."
Noting that the city would be giving the allocation to an already established nonprofit, Lothrop said he believed supporting the request would "open the window" for every other worthy city organization to ask for allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund.

"How do you choose between your own children?" Lothrop asked.

Sherman said he had doubts about supporting a $500,000 allocation because it would support the creation of only a small number of jobs. But Sherman said he would support a $250,000 allocation because of the amount of investment that nonprofit has already made in the museum.

Marchetti said he believed the reduced allocation was worth the risk because the city government should add "its share" to what had already been appropriated.

Kerwood said the city should be "front and center" in assisting the Berkshire Museum to fulfill its goals and obligations.

During the public comment period, seven city residents spoke in favor of the allocation, while two spoke against.
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Reader's Comment, 4/18/2008, "politico facto" -
This is really stupid, the mayor requests a half million dollars for non- profit. and doesn't show up for the special request himself. Then there is a reduced request by a quarter millon, and you have two councilors voting no, another who would have supported a half million, another who wants it in the form of a loan, and another who always wants us to ''step up to the plate", because its our "duty".
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Reader's Comment, 4/18/2008, "Eric" -
Only the most naive among us ever thought that GE money was anything other than a poltical slush fund. As slush goes, I guess this is no worse than average. Bianchi ought to be careful talking about being a steward. After all, he was Wojtkowski's budget guy who squandered the $2,000,000 from Pyramid to tie into Pittsfield's water system.
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Reader's Comment, 4/18/2008, "Single Mom" -
Unlike Mayor Raberto I stayed in Pittsfield and raise my son on one income as did my parents. If it wasn't for being able to go to places like the Museum that use to have a box as you walked in for donations as apossed to the now admission and Berkshire Athenaeum for a small fee for a library card I am sure that my life and my sons would be very different. Both my parents and myself devoted ourselves to family and our jobs involved our community. I always hear Mayor Raberto saying "For The Greater Good" Well Mayor Ruberto dig deep into your own pocket and make a donation and maybe others will follow.
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"Cinema costs soar, again: Beacon Cinema: mayor proposes more public money"
(The Pittsfield) GAZETTE ONLINE EXCLUSIVE, 17 April, 2008

The proposed downtown cinema center to be owned & operated by Richard Stanley continues to skyrocket in cost — and Mayor James Ruberto wants to release additional public funding to keep the project alive.

Ruberto has submitted documentation asking the city council to use an additional $1.1 million from the General Electric economic development fund for Stanley’s business.

In a supporting document, community development director Deanna Ruffer reveals that “project costs are now estimated to total $22.3 million.”

This figure is twice the last publicly released estimate and quadruple the initial cost projections.

Stanley is planning to create a six-screen movie theater in the Kinnell-Kresge building on North Street.

Ruberto’s latest proposal calls for another $500,000 “in long term debt” and a “$600,000 bridge loan in anticipation of the future aware of additional State Historic Tax Credits.”

The mayor states that construction could begin in July and the project “will complete the revitalization of downtown Pittsfield.”

Ruberto’s proposal says that the $500,000 long term loan would carry a two percent interest rate.

Ruffer’s memo states that the six-screen theater would “bring approximately 35-50 full time jobs and 70-80 construction jobs to the city.”

Ruffer states that Stanley has agreed to cover a larger share of project costs, increasing “his equity participation to $800,000.”

A consortium of banks has increased the amount of loans for the project $4.6 million.

The remaining three quarters of the project cost is public money including $7.7 million of tax credits, with goal of another $2.6 million in historic grants). The city previously provided two $500,000 “loans” to the project.
The city also provide an early startup loan that was later converted to a grant.

Ruffer writes that “additional information, in support of the request for additional funding support, will be provided to the city council over the next week.”

The city has also aided the long-stalled project — and irked other downtown businesses — by granting Stanley the right to close off a portion of McKay Street and take over the McKay parking lot for more than one year to facilitate construction.

The city has also awarded Stanley a tax-increment financing package that reduces the cinema’s tax obligations. In addition, the city allowed Stanley to erect a fence on the North Street sidewalk in December.

Ruffer lists the total project cost as $22.3 million, “with construction costs of approximately $13 million.”
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"Mayor: Choice wasn't easy"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, April 20, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Museum was counting on the city's help to qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant it was awarded in October by the prestigious Kresge Foundation.

The city is planning to help, but not with the amount of funding that would have given the 105-year-old nonprofit the final push to achieving its fundraising goal.

Mayor James M. Ruberto's decision on Thursday to recommend that the museum receive $250,000 from the GE Economic Development Fund — half of the allocation that he originally proposed — means that the nonprofit must raise significantly more by the May 1 deadline to receive the challenge grant.

"It wasn't any easy decision," Ruberto said. He said he would not have reduced the proposed allocation if he believed that the full City Council would have supported the original amount. The council will consider Ruberto's modified allocation on Tuesday. The 11-member council is required to approve allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund by a supermajority of eight affirmative votes.

"If we had the consensus, I would have certainly stayed the course," Ruberto said.

The council's economic and community development subcommittee on Thursday night voted 3-2 in favor of recommending the full council approve the modified order on Tuesday night.

"I think the entire council is much more comfortable with $250,000 than it was with the figure that I originally prepared," Ruberto said.

The Berkshire Museum's "Windows on the World" capital campaign has raised $8.9 million so far.

"The $500,000 allocation would have allowed the museum to reach the $9.5 million mark, which it needs to qualify for the Kresge grant.

"The $250,000 will help us get there," said Sherrill Ingalls, the Berkshire Museum's director of marketing. "Obviously, we'd love to have the $500,000, but $250,000 will get us closer to the Kresge.

"It would have been nice, but we'll keep looking."

Stuart Chase, the museum's executive director, learned that Ruberto had decided to reduce the allocation on Thursday night when he saw the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

"It was a bit of a surprise," Chase said. "Deanna Ruffer (Pittsfield's Community Development director) spoke to me. But the mayor has worked really hard to make sure that we are successful."

To reach its $9.5 million goal now, Chase said the museum intends to work the phone lines to contact possible donors. "We have a multitiered approach," he said.

Obtaining additional gifts from major donors will be difficult, Chase said.

"They have pledges that are spread out over many years," he said.

"It just doesn't work that way," he added. "It just doesn't."

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Source: Abrams Hospitality Marketing

"Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pittsfield, MA Gets $2 Million Renovation to Ballroom, Banquet Space, Fine Dining Rockwell's Restaurant and Dewey's Poolside Pub"

BOSTON, April 21, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Nestled in the heart of Berkshire County, two hours' drive from Boston and New York City, is Pittsfield, Massachusetts where the surrounding Berkshire Mountains are best viewed from the 14-story Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel. The Berkshire Common Corporation, owners, plan a $2 million renovation for the grand ballroom, banquet facilities and two of its three restaurant facilities. The Underground Pub, located in the hotel's shopping arcade adjacent to the health spa, will remain open to serve guests' food and beverage needs during the renovation. Dewey's restaurant and bar, located adjacent to the hotel's indoor pool, is scheduled to close for one week in June for its refurbishment. Rockwell's, the hotel's fine dining room, named for Norman Rockwell, the illustrator whose museum and studio are located nearby in Stockbridge, will undergo redecoration during this period as well. While many floors of guest accommodations have already been refurbished, additional renovations are planned for the remaining guest rooms. The current project is scheduled for completion by December.

"We look forward to offering to the community of Pittsfield and our out-of-town guests enhanced food and beverage facilities as well as an upgraded in-room experience, while we continue to offer exceptional levels of customer service," said Eugene Weiss, the hotel's owner.

When asked about the investment in upgrading the Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel, Pittsfield's Mayor James M. Ruberto, said, "I am pleased that the Crowne Plaza is renovating and re-investing in the City of Pittsfield. This is a sign of continued confidence from the Weiss family in the revitalization of the downtown corridor."

Nationally syndicated radio show travel expert and Berkshire County resident, Stephanie Abrams, when asked why travelers would choose to visit Pittsfield, explains, "There's a reason that I choose to live here! Berkshire County offers leisure travelers something for every age group and every interest. The Crowne Plaza is located in the best spot for visiting all of the museums, historic homes, theatres, antiquing, and experiencing the outdoor splendor that the mountains, lakes, bicycling and walking trails offer. With Tanglewood, Hancock Shaker Village, Barrington Stage, Shakespeare & Company and the gilded-age Colonial Theatre just across the street from the hotel, there is no better location to be near everything in a hotel that offers an indoor pool and whirlpool, fitness center, covered parking, a complete business center as well as 8,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space. I'm particularly looking forward to the debut of the new surroundings planned for the restaurants. The new decor of the dining and banquet facilities are planned to complement the gourmet quality of food preparation and the chic presentation of the dishes one has come to expect from the chefs at the Berkshire Crowne Plaza," Abrams concludes.

CONTACT: Crowne Plaza Pittsfield-Berkshires
Richard J. Ricci, Director of Sales
(413) 553-2184
RRicci@BerkshireCrowne.com

Abrams Hospitality Marketing
Stephanie Abrams
Stephanie@sabrams.com
www.sabrams.com

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"Crowne Plaza to get $2M upgrade"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, April 20, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Crowne Plaza hotel at Park Square is about to launch a $2 million renovation that will upgrade the hotel interior by year's end.

Berkshire Common Corp. will begin work soon with improvements to the ballroom, food service and restaurant areas, finishing with renovations to guest rooms later this year, said Janet Brennan, manager of catering and social events.

It will be the first face-lift for the 14-story, 197-room hotel since 1999, Brennan said. The interior design work is being handled by Caligari & Sons Inc. of Great Barrington. The hotel was built in 1970.

Outside, the hotel will remain the same, save for improvements to an outdoor terrace dining area near the pool, he said.

The changes will be most evident to patrons of the hotel restaurant, which is being completely redone, she said. For a week in June, the restaurant will close while work is being done, but the Underground Pub will remain open, she said.

Plans for the Top of the Plaza lounge have not been announced.

"We look forward to offering to the community of Pittsfield and our out-of-town guests enhanced food and beverage facilities as well as an upgraded in-room experience, while we continue to offer exceptional levels of customer service," said Eugene Weiss, the hotel's owner.

Mayor James M. Ruberto was excited by news of the major improvement project.

"I am pleased that the Crowne Plaza is renovating and reinvesting in the city of Pittsfield," he said. "This is a sign of continued confidence from the Weiss family in the revitalization of the downtown corridor."

The hotel also offers a business center and 12,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, all of which are being refurbished.

The Crowne Plaza Pittsfield-Berkshires, at 1 West St., is a partner in the city's Third Thursdays event, which will begin again in May. The hotel also has a whirlpool, sauna, fitness center and on-premises health spa.
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To reach Ellen G. Lahr: elahr@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6240
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"A team effort on city waste"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

As we celebrate efforts to "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" this Earth Day, we would like to congratulate the city of Pittsfield for having gone one step further by being so progressive in rethinking how it would manage its waste. Further, we need to congratulate Crane & Co. as well. Rather than land-filling, the city chose to convert its municipal waste into clean, renewable energy and Crane & Co. chose to use waste-generated steam instead of fuel oil.

It was a bright idea back when the Pittsfield facility was built and it is looking even smarter today. For 27 years, the facility has provided reliable waste disposal services, processing approximately 240 tons of waste each day into enough steam energy to serve certain energy and paper processing needs of Crane & Co. More recently, we've added a turbine to generate our own in-house electricity. By reducing our reliance — and Crane's — on fossil fuels and foreign oil to create renewable energy, the facility annually offsets the equivalent of 79,000 tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere. We also recycle 3,800 tons of metals, keeping them in productive use and out of landfills.

So, by reducing the amount of waste going into landfills, the Covanta Pittsfield facility, the city of Pittsfield, and our customer, Crane & Co., all work every day to help create a sustainable environment. And that's important because Earth Day should be celebrated every day.

MICHAEL BUCKLEY
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
The writer is the business manager for Covanta.

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News & Notes: "Show Me the Money"
By Larry Kratka - April 22, 2008
Berkshire News Network

"The Longer You Wait, the More It Costs"

PITTSFIELD — The City Council will meet tonight at 7:30 with a light schedule but two issues may cause more than a few sparks.

First, the council will take a look at a recommendation from one of its subcommittee to award $250,000 in GE development money to the Berkshire Museum instead of the $500,000 originally proposed by Mayor James Ruberto. The mayor is apparently onboard with the reduction. But the decrease will affect the museum's ability to meet a Kresge Foundation matching grant that was awarded last fall.

The 105-year-old museum has to raise $9.5 million for its "Windows on the World" capital campaign by May 1 to get the grant. Executive Director Stewart Chase told the council last week that $8.9 million has been raised so far. The Berkshire Museum recently completed the first phase of its renovation program and needs $10 million to complete the second phase.

The other major issue is a proposal by Ruberto that asks the City Council to use an additional $1.1 million dollars of GE economic money for the long-awaited Richard Stanley cinema on North Street.

It seems that the price tag for the project is now up to an estimated $22.3 million — roughly twice the last public estimate. If built, the six-screen cinema would be located in the former Kresge building on North Street.

Ruberto says the cinema would be the final major project in the revitalization of the downtown area. During his 2007 campaign, Ruberto said the cinema would be built during this term and there are 20 months left with no construction ready to go.

The GE Economic Development Fund is part of the consent decree hammered out between GE, Pittsfield and state and federal agencies over the cleanup of PCBs that gives the city $1 million a year over 10 years. The fund is in its eighth year.

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"Council delays Berkshire Museum funding: Move jeopardizes $500K Kresge grant"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night declined to vote on a proposed allocation of $250,000 in GE Economic Development Funds to the Berkshire Museum, referring it back to the subcommittee that considered the proposal last week instead.

The Berkshire Museum needs the funding by May 1 to qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant awarded by the Kresge Foundation in October. Because the community and economic development subcommittee's next meeting is May 8, Berkshire Museum Executive Director Stuart Chase said that he plans to speak with Mayor James M. Ruberto today before asking the Kresge Foundation to extend the deadline.

"My goal for now is to talk to the Kresge Foundation about the situation with the funding and ask for an extension," Chase said after the council had voted to refer the proposal back to its subcommittee. "It's a difficult situation."

"If we can't raise that funding by May 1 and don't get an extension, my understanding is that the Berkshire Museum would never be able to apply to the Kresge Foundation again," Chase said.

To receive the foundation grant, the 105-year-old museum is required to complete its $9.5 million "Windows on the World" capital campaign by May 1. It has raised $8.9 million so far.

The 11-member council is required to approve allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund by a supermajority of eight affirmative votes. With Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio absent last night, only 10 council members were present.

Ruberto originally asked the council to approve a $500,000 allocation to the Berkshire Museum, but he amended the amount to $250,000 before last week's subcommittee meeting because he believed the full council would not support the higher amount. The subcommittee approved the lesser allocation by a 3-2 vote.

Ruberto smiled tightly last night when asked if he believed that the council decided to refer his petition back to the subcommittee because not enough members would support it last night.

"I think there's some questions that need to be addressed at the committee level," he said.

With Maffuccio absent, Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi said he believed that the council voted for a second subcommittee referral because there were not enough votes for approval.

"That's kind of a snaky way to deal with it," he said after the meeting had adjourned. Bianchi voted against the proposed allocation last week as a member of the subcommittee.

But Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer said there are several "terms and conditions" regarding the $250,000 allocation that still must be worked out.

"It's not as simple as it might have appeared to some councilors on the surface," Ruffer said.

Because an amended petition was sent back to the full council for approval, the council is required to send that proposal back to the subcommittee for further review, City Council President Gerald M. Lee said. In other business, the council voted to refer a $1.1 million allocation from the GE Economic Development Fund for loans to the Beacon Cinema project on North Street to its community and economic development subcommittee for further review. That proposal also will be discussed on May 8.

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"Approve museum funds"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Pittsfield City Council's decision to punt the proposed allocation of $250,000 in GE Economic Development Funds for the Berkshire Museum back to a subcommittee Tuesday night so defies logic that it recalls the days of not that long ago when the council was a hindrance to the city, not a progressive force. With yesterday's extension of the deadline for a $500,000 challenge grant the museum is pursuing, we hope the council will act quickly to rectify the situation.

Back before there was any thought of a downtown renaissance, there was the Berkshire Museum, a 105-year-old nonprofit whose educational and cultural contributions to the city and county defy monetary calculation. The museum has recently upgraded its plant and opened the $1.2 million Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation with funds donated by Donald and Armand Feigenbaum of Pittsfield. The museum is within $600,000 of completing the $9.5 million "Windows on the World" capital campaign, and according to museum Executive Director Stuart Chase, roughly half of the 600 donations received in the capital campaign came from Pittsfield residents to the tune of $5.4 million. The museum was originally faced with a May 1 deadline to reach its goal, but in light of the City Council's vote, an extension was granted yesterday until May 13, which is the date of the council's next meeting.

Given the support from city residents, the museum's many contributions to the city, and the presence of the GE Economic Development Fund, the City Council should have leapt at the opportunity to push the museum the rest of the way to its goal. Mayor Ruberto, however, sensing that he did not have the required supermajority of eight votes, cut in half his $500,000 request before sending it to the community and economic development subcommittee, which approved it by a 3-2 margin. The council sent the request back to the subcommittee, which meets again on May 8.

Though Ward 6 City Councilor Daniel Bianchi, one of the two subcommittee dissenters, argued that the GE money should be preserved to attract businesses to Pittsfield, few businesses are knocking on the city's door in this economic climate and the museum needs help now to complete a fundraising campaign that will generate more money. Dissenter Jonathan Lothrup of Ward 5 expressed concern that approving the request would "open the window" to requests from other city organizations, but the council can shut that window by voting no. Few city organizations can make the case for an allocation from the GE fund that the museum can make. Subcommittee Chairman Matthew Kerwood and at-large councilors Peter Marchetti and Kevin Sherman supported the mayor's request.

We would have hoped for more vocal support of the museum funding Tuesday night, and hope that councilors don't fear an electoral downside to backing this easily defended request for GE funds. Councilors should keep in mind that candidates for office who aggressively back efforts to improve the city have been rewarded by voters in the last three elections, while advocates of the failed status quo have generally not been. There is no excuse for an excess of caution when it comes to doing what is right for the city and its institutions.

The mayor's original $500,000 request of the council is entirely justified, but whatever sum is offered, the subcommittee should again approve it and the full council should as well. There is no upside to stiffing the museum and many good reasons for getting it to its goal.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"City sacks police officer: Pittsfield cuts ties with Patrick Duffy following a 2006 incident in which he allegedly punched a handcuffed man"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, April 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto yesterday officially fired police Officer Patrick Duffy for allegedly punching a subdued and handcuffed Pittsfield man in November 2006 and for lying about it in police reports.

Duffy had been on paid administrative leave since early 2007.

This is the second time that Duffy has been fired from the department. He was let go on Sept. 4, 2002, after a woman claimed he sexually assaulted her while he was on duty and for not telling police dispatchers his location when the incident took place. But in July 2004, the City Council, at Ruberto's request, reinstated Duffy over the objections of the police union. Patrick Duffy is the son of retired Fire Chief Stephen Duffy.

Ruberto said that the circumstances surrounding the 2002 incident warranted Duffy's reinstatement, but he declined to comment on the 2006 punching incident. Duffy was not charged in the former case, and law enforcement authorities agreed not to charge Duffy in the latter one.

"It would be inappropriate for me to make any comments about Patrick Duffy or his status," Ruberto said yesterday. "This is a personnel matter. As you know, I don't discuss personnel matters publicly."

The police investigation into the Nov. 3, 2006, incident was based on a citizen's complaint. Nicholas Lighten of Pittsfield claimed that Duffy punched him in the right eye and forehead with his right fist while Lighten was prone on the ground, subdued and handcuffed.

Lighten filed the complaint alleging assault and battery and police brutality three days after the incident, according to an internal affairs report by Pittsfield Police.

The investigation found that Duffy committed assault and battery, filed an arrest report and a use-of-force form with false information, and made false reports in a second ordered report.

In a letter to Duffy dated Tuesday, Ruberto stated that he was terminating Duffy's employment with the city of Pittsfield based on the findings of an administrative hearing that took place last week. The termination officially went into effect yesterday, said Pittsfield's labor relations attorney, Fred Dupere.

According to the written report, hearing officer Bruce I. Collingwood recommended that Duffy be terminated instead of suspended, based on the seriousness of the incident — striking Lighten in the face after he had been subdued and handcuffed, and falsifying police reports.

Lighten was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but the charges were dismissed at the commonwealth's request on Feb. 23, 2007.

"Truthfulness is critical in the position of a police officer," Collingwood stated in his report. "A police officer must at all times be truthful in all investigations, including investigations where the police officer is the subject of the investigation.

According to Dupere, Duffy has 10 days from receiving a copy of the written administrative hearing report to file an appeal of his termination with the Civil Service Commission.

Duffy's attorney, Elizabeth J. Quigley of Pittsfield, said her client intends to appeal his termination both to the Civil Service Commission and in Berkshire Superior Court.

"He has been a police officer and had served with distinction for some period of time," Quigley said. "He looks forward to being vindicated by the courts."

In the course of the investigation, both Duffy and Lighten were given polygraph examinations, but Duffy agreed only after the district attorney's office agreed it would not pursue charges against Duffy.

The officer who examined the results of Duffy's polygraph test determined that "Officer Duffy's test results are indicative of deception to the target issue," according to the administrative hearing report. The examiner who reviewed Lighten's polygraph charts believed "he was not attempting deception," the report states.

Patrick Duffy's history

2002

Aug. 15: A woman files a complaint against police Officer Patrick Duffy, claiming that he came to her house in uniform while on duty and sexually assaulted her. Duffy had apparently met the woman on July 28 when she was the alleged victim of sexual abuse.

Sept. 4: Duffy is fired after Police Chief Anthony J. Riello recommends that Duffy be terminated.

2004

July 13: Over the objections of the police union, the City Council approves Mayor James M. Ruberto's request to reinstate Duffy to the Police Department and votes 9-1 in his favor.

2006

Nov. 3: Duffy and Officer Michael Megaro respond to a domestic incident on Ridgeway Avenue. Nicholas Lighten is charged with assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Nov. 6: Lighten files a citizen's complaint with Pittsfield Police charging assault and battery and police brutality. It is alleged in the complaint that Duffy punched Lighten in the right eye/forehead area with his right fist while the victim was prone on the ground, subdued and handcuffed.

Dec. 1: An internal investigation conducted by Pittsfield Police determines that Duffy committed assault and battery, filed an arrest report with false information, filed a use-of-force form with false information and made false reports in a second ordered report. Duffy is soon placed on paid administrative leave.

2007

Feb. 23: The criminal charges against Lighten are dismissed at the commonwealth's request.

July 13: The state Attorney General's Office defers to an earlier decision rendered by the Berkshire District Attorney's Office and agrees not to prosecute Duffy. Duffy agrees to take a polygraph test after being granted immunity from prosecution by both law enforcement agencies.

July 19: The district attorney's office declines to pursue potential charges against Duffy so that the city of Pittsfield can seek his dismissal.

2008

April 15: An administrative hearing takes place at Pittsfield City Hall.

April 22: Ruberto concurs with hearing officer Bruce I. Collingwood's recommendation that Duffy be fired.

April 23: Duffy's termination is official.

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"Officer appeals firing"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, May 26, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Former Pittsfield Police Officer Patrick Duffy, who was fired by Mayor James M. Ruberto last month, has appealed his termination to the state Civil Service Commission.

A date for a pretrial hearing, the first step in the appeal process, has yet to be set, said Pittsfield's labor relations attorney, Fred Dupere of Southampton.

"The only thing that I've seen so far is that the appeal has been filed," he said.

Duffy, the son of former Pittsfield Fire Chief Stephen Duffy, has appealed his termination based on "the use of improper and inadmissible evidence" that was presented at a hearing, according to his appeal.

Neither Dupere nor city attorney Richard L. Dohoney said they knew what the inadmissible evidence is that Duffy referred to in his appeal. But during the course of the investigation, Duffy was given a polygraph examination under the condition that the district attorney's office would not pursue charges against him.

The officer who examined the results of Duffy's polygraph test determined that "Officer Duffy's test results are indicative of deception to the target issue," according to a report of the city's administrative hearing that took place April 15.

Duffy was fired for allegedly punching a subdued and handcuffed Pittsfield man in November 2006 and for lying about it in police reports. He had been on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in these cases, since early 2007.

The victim, Nicholas Lighten of Pittsfield, also was given a polygraph examination. The examiner who viewed Lighten's polygraph charts believed "he was not attempting deception," the administrative report states.

Attorney Elizabeth J. Quigley of Pittsfield, who represents Duffy, could not be reached for comment. She has said previously that her client intends to appeal his termination both to the Civil Service Commission and in Berkshire Superior Court.

Duffy previously had been fired from the Police Department on Sept. 4, 2002. A woman claimed that he sexually assaulted her while he was on duty; he also failed to tell police dispatchers his location when the alleged incident took place. In July 2004, the City Council, at Ruberto's request, reinstated Duffy over the objection of the police union.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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Readers' Comments:
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May 27, 2008-

Most cops let there job get to there head and think they can just beat your ash if you dont listen.there is a way to arrest people without kicking there ash. I thought that is what they go to training for??????????
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May 27, 2008-

DA Clueless should have done his job 2 years ago and not"cut a deal" with this piece of offal.

He deserves to serve again, this time in prison.

Is Mayor Jim rooting for him again? He should be the one to cover the $$$ spent on this debacle for administrative leave.
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May 27, 2008-

DA Clueless should have done his job two years ago and prosecuted this piece of offal.

Poor Mr. Duffy should serve again, this time in prison.

Is Mayor Jim still rooting for him? He should pick up the "administrative leave " that the crooked cop collected on the taxpayers tab.
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"Museum worth city investment"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Congratulations to the Berkshire Museum on the impressive renovation. We are looking forward to enjoying the benefits of the improved facility and the ability of the museum to attract and present new programming and important exhibitions.

It was disappointing to see a reduction in the mayor's recommendation to allocate funds from the GE Economic Development Fund from $500,000 to $250,000. Since the museum has reopened at the end of March, the traffic in our gallery has increased considerably, doubling on weekends and most noticeably evident with requests to visit on Sunday, a day the museum is open but we are not during the winter. It is evident that the museum is an important draw to Pittsfield both year round and during the "high" season.

While our summer cultural tourists and season-stretching second-home owners represent important sectors of the developing creative economy, it is equally important to recognize the role of the Berkshire Museum in generating day-to-day, year-round museum attendance of residents and weekend visitors. Every museum attendee represents a visitor to Pittsfield and a potential consumer on North Street, to our gallery, to one of the other cultural attractions in the immediate area, and to all of the restaurants and stores. It is obvious that the combination of cultural and tourist economies depend on strong institutions, particularly those that function year-round and both during the day and at night.

The Berkshire Museum attendance was annually about 85,000 and will only improve with this investment. While the museum is not a new company, the renovation is significant and should be viewed in the same way as the other physical plant improvements that were supported by the fund. The museum's presence played a direct role in our decision to locate, purchase our retail space and choose Pittsfield.

The museum's traffic and strong presence is significant in every conversation we have with individuals considering Pittsfield investments — galleries and businesses inquiring about opening on North Street, condo buyers thinking about purchasing in the downtown area, first- and second-home owners thinking of locating in central county and new cultural institutions and foundations looking to locate in the Berkshires. It is the mix of all of these hard to measure factors that should be considered when using the GE funds to attract businesses and stimulate new investment as North Street and Pittsfield comes alive again.

LESLIE FERRIN & DONALD CLARK
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
The writers own the Ferrin Gallery.

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"Council weighs cinema funding: A May 8 meeting will include debate on the $1.1 million request for the North Street project"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, April 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — To help offset the rising costs of the delayed Beacon Cinemas project, Mayor James M. Ruberto is asking the City Council to spend $1.1 million from the GE Economic Development Fund.

Ruberto has asked for the allocation for the proposed downtown cinema center in North Street's historic Kresge-Kinnell building, a project that has been several years in the making.

Construction was supposed to begin last year but was delayed when the National Park Service determined that the design did not retain enough of the historic elements of the facade and entryway interior to qualify for $900,000 in federal historic tax credits.

The delay has sent the project's total cost soaring, from $12.6 million last year to $22.3 million this year, according to the mayor's petition. The cost of construction for the six-screen movie complex is now expected to hit $13 million.

The project recently received historic certification from the National Park Service, and design efforts are on schedule for construction to begin July 15. The Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp. has set a tentative mid-June date for closing on the project's financing.

Ruberto could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his office refers to the downtown cinema center "as the final anchor project to the economic and cultural renaissance currently under way in the heart of the city," according to his petition.

The mayor says that the cinema will draw 200,000 to 250,000 people to downtown Pittsfield each year, providing a direct economic impact of $2 million and bringing approximately $1.7 million to downtown restaurants and businesses.

The request comes as the City Council grapples with a proposal for $250,000 for the Berkshire Museum from the GE fund, a $10 million settlement that Pittsfield received as part of the PCB cleanup agreement that was finalized in October 2000. The council failed to vote on the museum funding at its meeting Tuesday night, sending the matter back to committee.

Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi, a frequent critic of allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund, said the city should be careful how it spends its resources. He said he is "very leery" about having the city approve any additional appropriations to the cinema center.

"This has gotten to be a pretty big project," Bianchi said. "I think only so much money should be committed to it."

Bianchi said the GE Economic Development Fund "is a very large chunk of what we're going to have available in the future. If it's difficult to put together the financing for this project, then maybe we really have to be concerned about the viability of the project."

Pittsfield already has allocated $1 million in GE funds to the cinema through two $500,000 loans, one of which was used to match a $1 million Community Development Action Grant awarded by the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

Those two loans are part of $1.6 million that is listed on a balance sheet as Pittsfield's outstanding "obligations" from the GE Economic Development Fund, which had an available balance of $4.6 million as of April 17.

If approved, the $1.1 million allocation would consist of a $500,000 long-term loan with a 2 percent interest rate and a $600,000 "bridge loan" given in anticipation of the award of additional state historic tax credits.

Besides the city, all of the partners involved in the project's complicated financing plan are expected to increase their financial contributions.

The consortium of five local financial institutions has increased its loan to $4.6 million, while the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp. is increasing the equity it is providing through tax credits to $7.7 million. The project also has received an additional $100,000 in state historic tax credits.

Richard Stanley of Egremont, owner of the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington and the project's managing partner, has agreed to increase his contribution from $500,000 to $800,000 in addition to providing a personal guarantee of $1 million.

The City Council on Tuesday night referred the mayor's petition to its community and economic development subcommittee for further review. The subcommittee will consider the proposed allocation on May 8, the same night that it is scheduled to discuss the $250,000 allocation to the Berkshire Museum.

Councilor at large Matthew M. Kerwood, who is chairman of the subcommittee, would like the subcommittee to discuss how the overall financial picture has changed.

"It's not like this is a new project," he said. "This request is a piece of the changes to the overall funding structure. ... Now there's a gap from where we were and where we are now."

"I want to know what the structure is going to be," said Bianchi, who is also a subcommittee member. "Is it a loan or a grant? If it's a loan, what are the terms to be considered? What I want to know is how it fits into the total picture.

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"Local home foreclosures rising"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, April 27, 2008

PITTSFIELD — First-quarter foreclosures are up sharply in the Berkshires and across the state, and Mayor James M. Ruberto and a federal housing official are convening a forum tomorrow for struggling homeowners.

Ruberto's office said that Taylor Caswell, regional director for the federal Housing and Urban Development agency, will discuss options for homeowners facing delinquency, including housing counseling services and federal refinancing programs that can help residents avoid foreclosure.

The meeting is tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. at City Hall's council chambers on Allen Street.

"Homeowners facing mortgage delinquency need to take action as early in the process as possible," according to a statement from Ruberto's office. "Often, people wait until it's too late and very little can be done to help avoid foreclosure."

According to data released this week by The Warren Group of Boston, which tracks regional real estate data, 29 Berkshire County properties were taken in foreclosure proceedings in the first three months of 2008. That figure is up 52 percent from the same period last year, when 19 foreclosure deeds were filed.

From January through March, another 184 property owners were notified of potential foreclosure proceedings or property auctions, according to the Warren Group.

Foreclosure petitions are up 25 percent, and auction notices are up 70 percent, nine points above the state increase of 61 percent.

Most foreclosure petitions do not lead to foreclosures, as borrowers often are able to fend off an auction. But anyone whose mortgage reaches the foreclosure petition stage is at risk of being liable for banks' legal costs associated with working out delinquent loans.

Compared with the state, Berkshire County's foreclosure trends are less severe: Statewide, the foreclosure rate is up 138 percent over the first quarter of last year, while petitions for foreclosure are up 40 percent. Auction petitions are up 61 percent.

In Pittsfield, the county's biggest city, foreclosure petitions in the first three months this year numbered 47, compared with 36 a year ago. Auction announcements rose from 16 to 25 in the same period, and nine properties have been foreclosed, up from six from the first quarter last year.

The numbers also are on the rise in North Adams: Petitions nearly doubled, from 12 in the first quarter of 2007 to 22 in this year's first quarter. Auction announcements rose from seven to 10, and actual foreclosures rose from five to 11.

Foreclosures in the Berkshires have lagged behind foreclosures elsewhere in the state and nation, as most lending here is dominated by local banks that do not engage in the subprime lending practices of larger national banks.

However, the numbers now are showing upward trends for the past three years, with most foreclosures being carried out by outside banks.

First-quarter foreclosure rates

Massachusetts Berkshires Pittsfield N. Adams

'07 '08 '07 '08 '07 '08 '07 '08

Petitions to foreclose 6,429 8,968 94 118 36 47 12 22

Auction announcements 3,082 4,968 39 66 16 25 7 10

Foreclosure deeds 1,186 2,827 19 29 6 9 5 11

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Health costs up $1.6M: City officials decide to switch back to a self-funded insurance plan for workers"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials will implement a $25.3 million health insurance plan for fiscal 2009, an increase of 8.6 percent compared with the current fiscal year, Pittsfield's health insurance broker said.

Under that scenario, the city's share of health insurance costs for city workers and their families will rise by $1.6 million, from $18.9 million to $20.5 million, according to Holly A. Taylor of True North Financial Services. The plan was discussed at Tuesday's Insurance Advisory Committee meeting.

The plan was formulated following discussions among Taylor, Mayor James M. Ruberto, recently retired City Treasurer G. Richard Bordeau and his successor, interim Treasurer Susan G. Carmel. The plan does not need City Council approval.

"The decision follows meetings that have been going on since early February," Taylor said.

The monthly rate for Pittsfield's HMO Blue plan will increase 7.6 percent in the fiscal year that starts July 1, but the plan's total costs are anticipated to rise 9.2 percent because 23 new hires are expected to enroll. The new members will add $248,000 to the city's costs next year.

The city also has decided to go back to a self-insured health plan for fiscal 2009 after switching to a fully funded plan for the current fiscal year. Under a self-funded plan, the city pays all of its actual health insurance claims. In a fully funded plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield assumes all of that risk.

In a letter to the Insurance Advisory Committee, Taylor said the city sought the shelter of a fully insured plan for the current fiscal year because of large claim activity and an accompanying rise in medical trends in fiscal 2007. However, the claims have settled down and have even run below projections, the letter states.

The fiscal 2009 rates for both the fully insured and self-insured plans were almost identical.

"It is safe to assume that the carrier incorporates a reserve in its insured rates in case claims exceed projections," the letter states.

According to the letter, the city has reviewed the most recent claims data and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of remaining fully insured and reverting to self-funded.

"We don't like to flip-flop around," Taylor said yesterday in a telephone interview. "But this has to do with what's right at the time."

All 18 of Pittsfield's collective bargaining units approved the decision to switch from a self-funded to a fully funded health insurance plan last year under the condition that the city could revert back to a self-funded plan, Taylor said.

The city will use the fully insured rates proposed by Blue Cross Blue Shield as the working rates and for the accrual for fiscal 2009.

The move back to a self-funded health insurance plan means that chiropractic services will be removed. The definition of eligible dependents under the self-funded plan will revert to age 19 for dependents and to 25 for full-time students.

Under the fully insured plan, the city of Pittsfield was mandated to provide chiropractic benefits and extended coverage for dependents as defined under the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law, but those items are not offered under the self-funded plan. As part of their approval of the switch to a fully funded plan, Pittsfield's collective bargaining units agreed that those two benefits would be discontinued if the city reverted back to a self-funded plan, according to Taylor.

Meanwhile, an ad hoc committee has found that the city could save $5.7 million annually if it joined the General Insurance Commission, which has administered health benefits to state employees since 1955. State municipalities recently became eligible to join the GIC. The committee, which was formed by the City Council to explore the possibility of Pittsfield's joining the GIC, has been meeting since February.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, who is chairman of the ad hoc committee, yesterday referred to the $5.7 million figure as a "working number" that includes various computations based on enrollment comparisons.

Taylor told the City Council in January that Pittsfield initially could save several million dollars by joining the GIC, but that those savings could vanish because of the cost of getting all 18 collective bargaining units to sign on to the plan.

The ad hoc committee will report its entire findings to the City Council at a special meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.

Expected fiscal 2009 increases in Pittsfield's individual health plans:

HMO Blue New England: The rate for the city's largest health care plan is expected to increase 7.6 percent on July 1, the start of fiscal 2009. The total costs will rise about 9.2 percent because 23 new members are expected to join. Rates rose 6 percent in fiscal 2008.

Blue Care Elect PPO: An expected rate increase of 7.6 percent. This is the city's smallest health care plan, with just 32 individuals, most of them early retirees who live outside Massachusetts.

Medex 3: The rates are expected to increase 12 percent. This self-funded Medicare supplement pays after Medicare parts A and B for the 248 members, all of whom are enrolled in single plans.

Managed Blue for Seniors: Rates are expected to rise just 1.3 percent, although total costs will increase 2.3 percent because of Pittsfield's growing retiree population. There are 513 members currently enrolled in single plans. This Medicare supplement HMO plan is not part of the self-funded pool and is rated through a statewide Blue Cross program.

— Tony Dobrowolski

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Reader's Comment: "Truthsayer", May 1, 2008 -

Interesting that the same broker for Pittsfield took Williamstown from self-insured to the state plan to save money. Yet, it's not good enough for Pittsfield?! In Williamstown, this broker charged the town a fee to move it because there are no commissions to shift to GIC. Many municipalities have gone to GIC, and saved money. So long as the City of Pittsfield uses a "broker" (a commission driven species that can take BOTH fees from the client and commissions from the stop loss insurer), the advice given will always be tainted by a broker's income/commission needs.$5.7 million in savings in nothing to sneeze at. Add broker's fees and commissions to the mix as well. A reasonable consultant would work for the city's best needs and do so without commissions. When the same broker is in charge of multiple cities and towns in the county, the weight of political referrals keeps her fat and happy with her commissions, acting in her best interests more so than that of Pittsfield. In these lean economic times, bite the bullet and go GIC. You'll be glad you did.

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By the way, since the City of Pittsfield's "broker" is also a former Berkshire Eagle reporter, do you honestly think you'll get the full story (even the negative aspects) on this matter? Public records indicate she's admitted to using her newspaper contacts at the Eagle and Transcript to further her client base. So, cut the fluff, and get to the meat.$5.7 million in savings is a lot. If we have to sacrifice our "broker" and her commissions, oh well!

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Reader's Comment: "told you so", May 1, 2008 -

DEAR MR MAYOR:

You may get 17 unions to join the GIC. But i can see the future... There will be one hold out. And this time Mr Mayor, get out your checkbook. Remember those 9 dispatchers???? They haven't had a raise since July 03. I promise they will not fold on this one!!!
Good Luck Jimmy.
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"School budget surplus of $565,194"
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Rising fuel and energy costs are a "moving target," but a reduction in retirement numbers in the school district has contributed to a surplus of $565,194 at the nine-month mark in the current fiscal year.

In her presentation to the School Committee last night, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Sally Douglas said the numbers had not changed much since the six-month budget projection, but that recruitment efforts were "extensive" this year, and spending in 2008 had surpassed the budget. A sum of $21,000 was allotted for recruitment, and Douglas projected a total of $60,000 would be spent by the end of the fiscal year; after a transfer of $25,000 into the account, the recruitment budget would be $14,000 in the hole, she reported.

She pointed out that the district searched for a new superintendent of schools this year, and the recruitment numbers reflect the advertising money that was spent to find a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Katherine E. Darlington, who leaves her post at the end of the school year.

In contrast, retirement numbers are at a three-year low; Douglas said only 13 employees retired in 2008, down from an average of about 40.

"I think we've peaked," Douglas said last night, noting a projected surplus of $299,632 in the severance-package budget and a $930,816 surplus for teachers' salaries.

The latter number was high, at least in part, because new hires come in at a lower salary than an outgoing retiree, Douglas explained.

Although electricity costs are projected to total $1,250,000, which is $24,310 over the budget, the winter did not leave a deficit in the district's gas heat budget. Douglas reported a surplus of $158,388 in the heating coffers, noting that last winter might have seemed extra long and cold, but in terms of heating degree-days, it was a "normal" season — and it didn't break the bank.

School bus diesel fuel, however, was another story: There will be a projected deficit of $40,000. Douglas said the school buses get six miles to the gallon, diesel is more than $4 at the pump, and the district has several long field trips coming up.

"(The diesel deficit) could have been worse," she mused after the meeting.

Budget 2009 workshops will be held at Pittsfield High School at 6 p.m. both today and Tuesday.
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To reach Jessica Willis: jwillis@berkshireeagle.com (413) 528-3660
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Pittsfield Municipal Airport
"DEP questions plan: Environmental concerns raised over runway expansion"
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Environmental regulators have asked the Pittsfield Municipal Airport to submit a raft of new information on its expansion plans as the $40 million project continues to wend its way through the permitting process.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has asked the city to analyze the possibility of a smaller runway expansion that would ease the impact on wetlands and sensitive environmental areas. The city has six months to respond but is rushing to get approval in the hope of beginning construction next year; it expects to submit its answer in June.

The airport has been pursuing its runway expansion and modernization for a decade. The plan to add 950 feet to the 5,000-foot main runway and to increase safety areas on both ends will entail the destruction of nearly four acres of wetlands, will require more than 92,000 cubic feet of floodplain to be filled and will force the city to reroute South Mountain Road.

To compensate for that environmental impact, the developers have proposed adding about 8.2 acres of wetlands near the airport and 453,000 cubic feet of floodplain. Under current estimates, the runway extension would cost $23 million; expansion of the terminal and other work will add $17 million to the cost.

The scope of the environmental damage is so large that the local Conservation Commission was required to deny a permit. In November, the project was sent to the regional office of the Department of Environmental Protection, which will be able to allow some aspects of the work but likewise will be forced to deny others. The proposal then will go to the DEP's headquarters, where the commissioner can grant a waiver that would allow the work to begin.

At the end of March, the regional DEP office sent a 12-page letter to the airport, asking its consultant to analyze several alternatives, including keeping the runway at its current length of 5,000 feet or selecting a shorter expansion of 300 feet.

Airport Manager Mark Germanowski said the airport is working on its response and hopes to submit it in June.

"We had a great number of alternatives (for the runway) that were tried through the process prior" to the DEP submittal, Germanowski said. "We came up with the preferred development alternative and forwarded that to the DEP."

The airport expansion has been met with heavy resistance from residents who are worried about its environmental cost. That opposition lessened four years ago when the proponents and opponents reached a compromise that eased some of the project's impacts.

Cecilia Rock of Howard Street is a longtime opponent of the expansion. She said yesterday that the DEP may be looking for a way to find a new compromise that would lessen the environmental impact while still allowing some degree of expansion.

"I would have preferred if they just outright said no to the expansion," Rock said.

City Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, whose Ward 5 includes the airport, was involved in the negotiations that produced the compromise. He said the DEP "certainly seems to be hinting strongly at 5,300 feet. There are multiple references to considering this number, which makes me think there is something about that number that would reduce the impact substantially."

Germanowski said the airport and its consultant have met with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission and the DEP to discuss the letter and what the agency wants in response.

"The process now is really hammering out the details of the impacts," he said. "It comes down to data."

Meanwhile, the consultants are working to recalculate the estimated cost. With the price of fuel and construction skyrocketing, Germanowski said he is certain that the tab has risen. The question is by how much.

Germanowski said that — pending environmental approval — the earliest the project could begin is the 2009 construction season.

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"Welcoming Community Initiative"
iBerkshires.com - May 01, 2008

The Cross Cultural Action Network (CCAN) will kick off their countywide Welcoming Community campaign at a meeting on May 15th from 12-2 pm at the First Baptist Church, 88 South Street, Pittsfield. The campaign is designed to raise the level of public discourse concerning immigrants and immigration so that public policy reflects our highest values. Mayor James Ruberto will lead the campaign with a resolution that declares Pittsfield a Welcoming Community.

In joining the statewide "Welcoming Massachusetts" campaign, CCAN is asking Berkshire County residents to pledge to make our communities hospitable, welcoming, and inclusive of diversity. Those who sign the pledge will agree to treat our neighbors with respect and decency and to establish equality for all people, including immigrants, endowing them with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Residents will be encouraged to sign pledges at the meeting, local events, and on line at welcomingma.org/form/sign-pledge.

Mayor Ruberto expressed his commitment to our immigrant community and Pittsfield's diversity in his 2008 inaugural speech. "Immigrants have always been an important part of Pittsfield and they provide the hope for our future. This pledge confirms our recognition for the need to respect and celebrate diversity in our community and in all communities."

Marcony Almeida, Organizing Director from the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Almeida will give us a statewide perspective on issues facing the immigrant and refugee communities in Massachusetts and current policy priorities. He will also give further background and information about the launch of the statewide “Welcoming Massachusetts” campaign. (www.welcomingma.org)

The event is free, and the general public is encouraged to attend. Light refreshments will be provided. Attendees are asked to enter the First Baptist Church via the side entrance near the Pittsfield Cooperative Bank.

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) protects and promotes the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees across the Commonwealth. MIRA advances this mission through education and training, leadership development, organizing, policy analysis and advocacy.

CCAN is an informal network of cross-cultural individuals and organizations that support immigrants and other minority groups in the Berkshires. The group is committed to making the Berkshires a welcoming community through events, advocacy and education. The Cross Cultural Action Network is headed by steering committee members from the Berkshire Immigrant Center, the Human Service Forum, Manos Unidas, the Adult Learning Center, and the Adult Literacy Committee of Berkshire County. For more information about CCAN, please contact (413) 445-4881.

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"Property foreclosures spike in county"
By: Ryan Burgess, Capital News 9, Albany, NY, covering the Berkshires, 04/30/2008.

PITTSFIELD, MA - "If you think that you're going to have problems, the best time to seek counsel is now. Don't wait," said Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.

That's his advice on avoiding what's become a major problem across the county -- a dramatic rise in property foreclosures. In the past 180 days, more than 140 foreclosures have been filed in Berkshire County.

"When you're looking at foreclosure issues and the impact that those have, not just on the individual but also on the community at large, it's substantial," said U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Regional Director Taylor Caswell.

"We're concerned because the statistics aren't really numbers, though I guess you can call them that. They represent real people. And they represent people whose lives are being affected in incredibly negative ways," said Ruberto.

The effect on real people is why officials here are taking real measures to slow the foreclosure crisis. They say struggling homeowners can refinance some adjustable rate mortgages, but the key to saving your home is to act early.

"If you are starting to anticipate an increase in your mortgage payment, or know that you're going to have a decrease in income, or you're just having a harder time paying the bills, that's the time to get help," said Berkshire Regional Housing Council Executive Director Elton Ogden.

On HUDS official website, you can find some helpful tips on avoiding foreclosures. But soon, homeowners in trouble will be able to turn to the Western Massachusetts Foreclosure Prevention Center that's opening soon.

"We'll be able to share housing counselors, we'll have very good educational materials, and a 24 hour hotline," said Ogden.

That's a hotline for emergency homeowner help that officials say, may soon be ringing off the hook.

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"Property foreclosures spike in county"
Officials in the Bay State are reacting to a recent spike in property foreclosures across the county. Ryan Burgess talked to some local housing officials to find out what's being done about the problem.
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Health Insurance
"Report: Pittsfield could save $5.6M: Joining state's pool needs approval"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 07, 2008

PITTSFIELD — After exploring several health insurance scenarios over the last three months, a committee of city officials has found that Pittsfield could have saved $5.6 million this fiscal year if it had joined the state's insurance pool.

Following those findings, Mayor James M. Ruberto announced he will submit a petition to the City Council within the next few weeks that would allow officials to engage in coalition bargaining with Pittsfield's 18 municipal unions to join the Group Insurance Commission.

The GIC has administered health benefits for state employees and retirees since 1955. Last year, the Legislature passed the Municipal Partnership Act, which allows cities and towns to join the GIC as part of the same risk pool, which has more than 294,000 members.

In order for Pittsfield to join the GIC, all 18 of the city's collective bargaining units have to agree to the measure by a margin of at least 70 percent of a vote "weighted" along each union's membership. The unions normally negotiate contracts with the city separately, under the process that is known as collective bargaining. But the GIC negotiations require the unions to negotiate with the city as one group, a method known as coalition bargaining.

"There are complications and complexities with the unions themselves to determine if they want to engage in coalition bargaining," Ruberto said. "The first step is the authorization that the two parties are willing to talk."

The heads of nine collective bargaining units were among the 22 people in attendance Monday night when the health insurance committee's findings were revealed at a special meeting of the City Council.

Holly A. Taylor of True North Financial Services, the city's health insurance broker, has told the City Council that the city could initially save millions of dollars by joining the GIC, but that those savings could dissipate due to the cost of getting all 18 unions to agree to the plan.

The earliest the city could join the GIC is fiscal 2010. The city would be required to notify the state by October to have city employees receive GIC health insurance benefits by July 1, 2009.

The nine-member health insurance committee, which includes four city councilors, Ruberto, and four city officials, was formed in January to explore the option of having the city join the GIC. The committee examined health insurance trends in Pittsfield over the last 10 years and compared the city and the GIC plans under various scenarios in a 27-page report.

The committee found the city could have saved $5.6 million in fiscal 2008 by comparing the total health insurance costs for Pittsfield's employees and retirees with a GIC cost scenario in which the entire city pool of employees and retirees was split evenly between health maintenance organization and preferred provider plans. The committee believed that scenario was the most likely option if Pittsfield joined the GIC.

The total fiscal 2008 costs under Pittsfield's current health insurance plan are $23.4 million, while the total costs under the GIC scenario were $17.8 million.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, who chaired the committee, said joining the GIC would keep health insurance costs down. Taylor told an employee commission last week that Pittsfield's health insurance costs are scheduled to increase 8.6 percent in fiscal 2009, with the city's share expected to rise by $1.6 million.

"In order for us to continue to have good health benefits, we have to bring in an affordable cost," Lothrop said. "We need to explore this option."

Lothrop said there are "accommodations" within the GIC plan to pay for a community's catastrophic health insurance claims. A large number of catastrophic claims caused Pittsfield's total health insurance costs to increase 18 percent in fiscal 2007.

The committee also found that city employees who currently pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs would realize annual savings of $451.44 on individual plans, and $1,025.76 on family plans under the GIC. The city, which picks up 80 percent of its employees health insurance costs, would save $1,805.76 annually on individual plans and $4,102.80 on family plans.

The GIC has 10 individual health insurance options as compared to four in the city's plan, and some of the GIC's individual co-pays are higher than the city's.

Ward 3 councilor and committee member Linda M. Tyer said that city employees should determine which GIC option best suits their needs.

"Look at your own financial resources and health needs and decide which of the plans works best for you and your family," she said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"GIC friend or foe" - May 7, 2008 - Reader's Comment:
jimmy, jimmy, jimmy,
let's see, you need ALL 18 unions to agree to this so the city can save $5.6M? maybe you shouldn't have forced the dispatchers to go FIVE years with no contract and FIVE years with no raise!
don't hold your breath waiting for those folks to embrace your precious GIC, they may tell you to "GO SUCK EGGS" like you told them.
well you could be a stand up guy and do the right thing and settle their contract and be a fair employer. but you can't because you're a typical politician, all smiles and waves at the meetings and in public and flipping people the finger and swearing like a gutter mouth bully in private.
jimmy, for once in your life why don't you try to be a stand up guy an do the the right thing? settle their contract and they might be willing to help you save the city $5.6M your looking to save. Could make you a big hero at election time jimmmy....
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"Truthsayer" - May 7, 2008 - Reader's Comment:
I've said it once, I'll say it again: A broker who makes money on commissions from insurers like Blue Cross and stop loss insurers, as well as a buck or two on each administration fee, isn't going to actively steer the city to a plan with no commissions. Yet, she did with Williamstown (but charged a big, fat fee to do it) and then, screwed up the enrollment. To move to GIC, the city doesn't need a Taylor, you need an independent advisor.
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"GIC's potential for city"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The conclusion of an ad hoc committee that Pittsfield could have saved $5.6 million if it was in the state's insurance pool in fiscal 2008 provides ample reason to begin moving quickly in that direction. We hope the City Council will support Mayor Ruberto's pending petition to get the coalition bargaining process with the city's municipal unions under way.

The committee's report comes in the wake of projected increases in the 9 percent range for fiscal 2009 in the city's $25.3 million health insurance plan. The city is also returning to a self-insured health plan for fiscal 2009 after switching to a fully funded plan for the current fiscal year, and while there is logic to doing this in response to fewer anticipated large claims, there are risks in switching plans from year to year based on projections.

The General Insurance Commission, which has administered health benefits to state employees for more than 50 years, was opened to cities and towns last year by the Legislature, working with Governor Patrick. With about 300,000 members it provides safety in numbers for communities like Pittsfield, and with state health care costs rising last year at roughly half the rate of many cities and towns, there are real savings to be made, as the nine-member ad hoc committee discovered.

The GIC requires municipal unions to negotiate with the city as one group, or coalition, necessitating all 18 of Pittsfield's unions to sign off for the city to join in 2010, the earliest opportunity. We hope the unions will look at the concept of joining GIC with an open mind and leave unrelated baggage, such as contract negotiations, at the door. The GIC has potential for the city, its taxpayers and its employees.

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"City still faces insurance challenges"
The Pittsfield Gazette, 01 MAY, 2008

Major changes are afoot for one of Pittsfield’s biggest municipal budget busters: the health insurance system for city employees and retirees.

For Fiscal Year 2009 — which begins July 1 — the city is projecting an 8.5 percent increase for insurance costs, bringing the city’s appropriation to $20.5 million.

Most city employees will see out-of-pocket costs for their share of insurance premiums increase 7.6 percent on July 1.

However the employees and retirees will get short-term relief: a “premium holiday“ will occur in May, during which employees won’t have to pay their monthly share of health insurance costs. Another premium holiday is expected during October.

Meanwhile, Mayor James Ruberto has decided to reverse course and have the city revert to a “self-funded” insurance system for Fiscal Year 2009, after one year in which the city had a no-risk premium system with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

All of these developments occur as Ruberto and city officials prepare a major push to get union leaders to agree to a switch from Pittsfield’s independent insurance system to become part of the state’s historically less expensive Group Insurance Commission.

Members of the employee health insurance advisory council were briefed about the shifting landscape during a Tuesday meeting at City Hall.

“You’ll have a lot to talk about with your unions and the city at the bargaining table,” said Holly Taylor, the city’s insurance broker/consultant.

The issue of greatest interest — and worry — to many employees is the possible switch to the state group insurance commission. Through that plan, the city would be part of a larger pool and employees would have multiple insurance plans from which to choose, but not the current Blue Cross offering.

Elmer Gage of the fire department said that the administration has made it clear to his union this item is City Hall’s top priority during contract talks.
“It’s No. 1 on the table,” said Gage.

Taylor concurred that “Mayor Ruberto and council president Lee have made it clear that is a priority.”

Madeline Kelly, representing Berkshire Athenaeum employees, said specifics of the GIC are a concern. She noted that the GIC’s higher mail order prescription costs are an issue, though Taylor said that lower employee premiums would offset that for most employees.

“The concern expressed to me is the more you use it, the less you save, which is the idea, I guess,” said Kelly.

Taylor said that unions and employees will have to analyze impacts as city officials promote the state plan. “Everybody has to do the math, it’s going to be very subjective,” she said.

A task force studying the GIC options will present its findings during a special city council meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The task force concluded that the state plan is worthy of further investigation, concluding it could save the city $5 million per year while also reducing costs for employees.

The GIC switch wouldn’t occur until at least Fiscal Year 2010. Regardless of the outcome of that concept, the coming fiscal year will prove pricier for the city and employees alike.

Taylor said that after reviewing price quotes from Blue Cross Blue Shield, city officials decided over the weekend to shift back from this year’s premium-based system. Ruberto and others had touted the return to premiums as a boon one year ago because it meant the city could budget precisely for insurance costs.

Under a self-funded model, the city pays Blue Cross Blue Shield an administrative fee, but absorbs costs directly. In a good year, the city can save money if costs are lower than expected; but if claims prove higher, the city is on the hook for the additional cost.

“We’ve made the decision to revert back to self-funded,” said Taylor. “Based upon our updated claims experience, we made the decision ... Our large loss activity has settled down, it’s about half where it was.”

Taylor said that the better claims history provided the mayor with the impetus to gamble on the return to self-funding, hoping that costs will come in below what Blue Cross quoted for premiums.

“The city feels it’s not in a position to leave any money on the table in these times,“ she said.

But the city will hedge its bets, budgeting costs based upon the 7.6 percent increase Blue Cross had quoted rather than a lower figure.

The city actually will appropriate an 8.5 percent budget increase because Taylor is projecting 23 additional employees will be covered during the new fiscal year.

Most city employees and retirees enroll in the Blue Cross Network Blue HMO plan and pay 20 percent of premium costs.

The 7.6 percent increase means the monthly premium for an individual will be $626 during Fiscal Year 2009, with the city paying $501 and the employee covering $125.

For those with family plans — the biggest group — the monthly premium will be $1,511 with the city paying $1209 and the employee paying $302.
Employees will enjoy short-term relief as a “premium holiday” will apply during May — with another one expected in October.

The premium holiday is the result of leftover funds in the trust fund from prior to July 2007. The city’s auditor concluded that the account has $5.6 million leftover; $4.7 million is the city’s contribution and $917,259 represents overpayments by employees.

These leftover funds will be drawn down to cover costs during the premium holiday months.

“Basically you get a month free,” said acting finance director Susan Carmel. “Our health insurance trust fund has a plentiful balance.”

Employees hired in the past year – as well as those enrolled in out-of-state plans — will not benefit from the premium holiday.

Taylor said that the leftover funds from prior years reflect conservative budgeting during years when the insurance costs were highly volatile.

“It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback,” she said. “The last thing we ever want to do is set our numbers too low and run a serious deficit.”

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"Staff shift eyed for Pittsfield schools"
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 08, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Two attendance officer jobs at the city's high schools may be eliminated and replaced with guidance counselor positions as part of a drop-out prevention program, school officials said last night.

The proposed change is part of the ongoing process of balancing and finalizing the $49.3 million fiscal 2009 school budget, Superintendent Katherine E. Darlington said at last night's School Committee meeting.

Having an additional guidance counselor, as opposed to attendance officers, at both Taconic and Pittsfield High Schools may better serve the students, she said, noting the School Committee would be working on "refining" the district's guidance model.

A total of 9.6 full-time positions have been added to the school budget, and 8.1 full-time existing positions have been shifted to fill the gaps from eliminations, said Sally Douglas, the assistant superintendent of business and finance.

The proposed additions in programs and personnel account for a total of $517,000 in the budget, and include 3.1 mandated full-time positions in special education; three math coaches for the elementary schools; a $38,000 expansion of Galileo, a math assessment program for Grades 3 to 10; $6,000 for library books at the two middle schools; and a $25,000 expansion to the Berkshire County Sheriff Department's Juvenile Resource Center.

Teachers and administrator salaries are still in the negotiation phase, Douglas reported. She added that the school nurse budget and expense account, previously part of the city's municipal budget, will be transferred over to the school budget.

The district's proposed fiscal 2009 budget has been level-funded; it is the same dollar amount as the current fiscal budget.

Douglas said the administrators will bring a final draft of the budget to the School Committee on May 28, and it will go before City Council for approval on June 4.
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To reach Jessica Willis: jwillis@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 528-3660.
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5/8/2008

Hello, Scott, et al,

Thank you for your email (below); it means a lot to me.

Jimmy Ruberto is a phony! That is what I dislike most about him. For example, Mayor Ruberto has always talked about Pittsfield (my native hometown) having the best public school system in the commonwealth, but recent news articles have stated otherwise -- that Pittsfield's public school system is among the bottom 10 performing school districts in Massachusetts! "Good Old Boy" Jimmy Ruberto is about one person: himself! He only supports those who kiss his ass & give him corrupt special interest $'s. That is why Mayor Ruberto is NOT supporting the fair & just financial interests of the city's dispatch union that you are the president of.

For more information on the Ruberto Regime, please go to my Blog page.

Thank you,
Jonathan A. Melle

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Scott Connors wrote:

Jonathan

Just saw your blog and love it! I too am an AVID Ruberto hater. I am the president of the city's dispatch union and this guy is a disgrace to everything that is humane. He is a schoolyard bully who was picked on as a kid and now decided that since he bought his way into political office, he is going to be the bully!

One Jeep Wrangler, too many dollars.
One Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Nostalgia, too many dollars.
One wallet, not enough dollars.
Going where I want, when I want, in style, priceless.

http://www.myspace.com/scottconnors

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"Beacon Cinema project: Funds would be repaid"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, May 09, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Contributions from the GE Economic Development Fund to the now $22.4 million Beacon Cinemas project would be in the form of a loan that would be repaid to the city of Pittsfield, an official told a City Council subcommittee last night.

"We will be repaid all of the money that the city puts into this," said Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer.

The city of Pittsfield has already contributed $1 million in GE Economic Development funds to the delayed cinema center project on North Street, but Mayor James M. Ruberto has requested an additional $1.1 million allocation to offset the increase in total costs from what was originally a $12.6 million project. The GE Economic Development Fund is a $10 million settlement that Pittsfield received as part of the PCB cleanup agreement that was finalized in October 2000. The fund's available balance was $4.6 million as of last month.

If approved, the additional $1.1 million allocation from the GE Economic Development fund would consist of a $500,000 long-term loan with a 2 percent interest rate, and a $600,000 "bridge loan" so named because it would be given in the anticipation of the awarding of additional state historic tax credits.

Ruffer said the repayment of the bridge loan would occur sooner because additional State Historic Tax Credits are expected to be awarded to the cinema project within the next two to three years. Repayment of the long-term loan would not occur until 11 years after the cinema center opens.

"I would feel more comfortable if we we're looking at this as a smaller-term loan on behalf of the city," Ward 6 Councilor and subcommittee member Daniel L. Bianchi said.

The Community and Economic Development subcommittee meeting had not ended as of press time last night.

Construction on the cinema was supposed to begin last year, but was delayed when the National Park Service determined that the design did not retain enough of the historic elements of the facade and entryway interior to the Kresge-Kinnell building at 48-55 North Street to qualify for $900,000 in federal tax credits.

Since then, the cinema center has been redesigned and is now expected to contain three times the amount of retail and office space along with six stadium-style theaters.

Construction is now expected to begin on July 15, but according to information provided by the city, the financing on the project must close by June 30 in order for that to happen. Deb Favreau, the senior investment officer for the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp., which is providing $7.7 million in equity through tax credits to the project, said if the financing doesn't close by June, MHIC will lose the federal and state tax credits that it has obtained for the cinema center.

"We can't hold them anymore," Favreau said. "If the city takes the next step and invests now we're ready to go."

Several principals involved in the project's complex financing plan explained how the total costs have increased and why they believe the cinema center is still financially viable. A consortium of five local financial institutions has increased its contribution to the project $1 million to $4.6 million to offset the rising costs.

"Like you, we were not happy with the increased costs," said J. Williar Dunlaevy, CEO of Legacy Banks. "But we've satisfied ourselves with the estimates and projections."

According to information provided by the city, construction costs have increased 54 percent to $13.4 million since October 2006 due a dramatic escalation in material costs that occurred between 2006 and 2007 and the fact that the project is now significantly larger than two years ago in terms of square footage.

Soft costs have increased 118 percent to $4.5 million, partly because an additional $1.4 million was spent on the redesign and carrying costs as a result of the budget delay.

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"Council postpones cinema decision"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, May 11, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Following some three hours of discussion on Thursday night, a City Council subcommittee voted to continue until May 14 its meeting on a proposed $1.1 million allocation from the GE Economic Development Fund to the proposed Beacon Cinema project on North Street.

Councilor at Large Matthew M. Kerwood, chairman of the community and economic development subcommittee, said that the board's five members would make a recommendation on the proposal in time for the full council's next meeting on May 27. The subcommittee's next meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

Allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund, a $10 million settlement that the city received from General Electric as part of the PCB-cleanup settlement, require council approval by a supermajority of eight affirmative votes.

Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer told the subcommittee that city would be repaid for any GE Economic Development funds it allocates to the cinema center project.

A continuance also gives the subcommittee more time to absorb the volume of information that was presented on Thursday night, Kerwood said. At-large councilor and subcommittee member Peter M. Marchetti abstained from the discussion because he is employed by a bank that is helping to finance the project.

Mayor James M. Ruberto has asked the City Council to approve an additional $1.1 million allocation from the GE Economic Development in order to offset a rise in the total cost of the six-screen Beacon Cinemas, which has almost doubled from $12.6 million to $22.4 million in less than two years.

Construction was supposed to begin last year, but was delayed when the National Park Service determined that the design did not retain enough of the historic elements of the facade and entryway interior to the Kresge-Kinnell building at 48-55 North Street to qualify for $900,000 in federal tax credits.

Since then, the cinema center had been redesigned and is now expected to contain three times the amount of retail and office space along with six stadium-style theaters.

Construction is expected to begin July 15, but financing for the project must close by June 30 in order for that to happen.

The City Council had previously approved two $500,000 allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund towards the cinema center project. They are listed as part of $1.6 million in outstanding obligations on the fund's balance sheet.

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Berkshire Museum
"Pittsfield to mull $250K request"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, May 11, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A City Council subcommittee has recommended — for the second time — allocating $250,000 to the Berkshire Museum from the city-managed GE Economic Development Fund.

Mayor James M. Ruberto has asked the City Council to OK the money so the museum can qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation last October.

Ruberto originally sought a $500,000 allocation from the GE fund, but halved that request, thinking the council wouldn't approve that much.

The full City Council will consider the mayor's request on Tuesday, the last day the museum can tell the Kresge Foundation it qualified for the challenge grant.

Last month, at the museum's request, the Kresge Foundation extended the deadline from May 1 to May 13 after the full council sent the mayor's request back to its subcommittee for further review.

The 11-member council is required to approve allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund by a supermajority of eight "yes" votes.

To receive the Kresge grant, the 105-year-old museum is required to complete its $9.5 million "Windows on the World" capital campaign by Tuesday. Including cash receipts and signed pledges, the museum had raised close to $9.2 million as of Friday, and has several verbal commitments, according to Marketing Director Sherrill Ingalls.

"We're chipping away," she said.

Unlike the first time the community and economic development subcommittee forwarded a favorable recommendation to the full council for approval, this referral includes certain conditions that have been attached to the funding.

The $250,000 allocation will now be structured as a deferred payment loan with certain amounts forgiven provided the museum achieves certain criteria, Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer told the subcommittee on Thursday night.

The city will either forgive the entire $250,000 allocation if the Berkshire Museum is awarded the $500,000 challenge grant, or will forgive $25,000 for the equivalent of each full-time job that the museum creates between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2013, Ruffer said.

Pittsfield will also forgive $25,000 for each year the Berkshire Museum, in collaboration with school administration officials, conducts an educational outreach program at Morningside Community School.

The outstanding balance as of July 1, 2013, will be converted to an interest-free loan payable to the City of Pittsfield in equal installments over a five-year term beginning on July 1, 2014.

The subcommittee on Thursday night approved the $250,000 allocation by a 3-2 vote, the same margin of approval that it reached when it first approved the request last month. At large councilors Matthew M. Kerwood, Peter M. Marchetti and Kevin J. Sherman voted in favor of the allocation, while Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop and Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi opposed it.

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"City Council OKs funds for Berkshire Museum"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night approved a $250,000 allocation from the GE Economic Development Fund for the Berkshire Museum, which enabled the 105-year-old South Street facility to qualify for a $500,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation.

The 11-member council voted 8-3 to approve the allocation, the margin needed to approve requests from the GE Economic Development Fund, which requires a "super majority" of eight "yes" votes.

Council President Gerald M. Lee, Ward 1 Councilor Lewis C. Markham Jr., Ward 3 Councilor Linda M. Tyer, Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward, Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio, and at-large councilors Kevin J. Sherman, Matthew M. Kerwood and Peter M. Marchetti voted in favor. Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi, Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop and Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi opposed it.

Yesterday was the deadline the Kresge Foundation gave the Berkshire Museum to qualify for the challenge grant, which had been awarded in October. The Michigan-based Kresge Foundation originally set the deadline for May 1, then agreed to extend it an extra 12 days last month after the council sent the request back to its community and economic development subcommittee for a second time.

The Berkshire Museum needed to raise $9.5 million in its "Windows on the World" capital campaign to receive the challenge grant. As of Friday, the museum had raised close to $9.2 million.

"The $250,000 will put us where we need to be," Berkshire Museum Executive Director Stuart Chase said before last night's meeting.

Mayor James M. Ruberto had originally asked the council to support a $500,000 allocation, but lowered the amount to $250,000 when it appeared the full council wouldn't support the higher sum. The subcommittee last week attached certain conditions to the funding, structuring the $250,000 allocation as a deferred payment loan with certain amounts forgiven provided the museum achieves certain benchmarks. One of those conditions allows the city to forgive the entire $250,000 allocation if the Berkshire Museum receives the challenge grant.

The GE Economic Development Fund is a $10 million settlement that Pittsfield received from General Electric as part of the PCB cleanup agreement that was finalized in October 2000. Under the terms of that agreement, GE provides $1 million annually to Pittsfield for the 10-year period that ends in 2010. As of May 6, the GE Economic Development Fund contained an available balance of $5.6 million, according to interim city treasurer Susan M. Carmel.

Bianchi, Costi and Lothrop all cited the finite nature of the GE Economic Development Fund as reasons for not supporting the proposal.

"It's not going to renew itself," Bianchi said. "We are going to have to have a substantial fund to come up with incentives to lure companies to this community."

"If it was any other source, I would support it," added Costi.

"I just don't believe the museum is an appropriate use of that money," Lothrop said.

Kerwood and Tyer both said they would have supported the mayor's $500,000 allocation to the museum. Kerwood said he didn't disagree with the three dissenting councilors, but said Pittsfield has other economic development initiatives, such as tax incentives and work force development grants, that it can utilize to bring businesses to Pittsfield.

Ward, a Berkshire Museum member who contributed to the capital campaign, referred to the South Street facility as a community asset. He said the number of jobs that the museum would create through its fundraising campaign alone would enable the facility to reach the benchmarks the council has set for entities that seek GE Economic Development Funds.

"On that basis alone, you could support it," he said.

During the public comment period, seven of the 11 people who spoke asked the council to support the museum's funding request.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Cinema passes subcommittee hurdle"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 15, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A City Council subcommittee last night unanimously recommended a plan to allocate $1.1 million from the GE Economic Development Fund for the delayed $22.4 million Beacon Cinemas project on North Street. The vote moves the oft-delayed cinema one step closer to the start of construction.

The community and economic development subcommittee's vote will now be considered by the full council, whose next meeting is May 27. The 11-member council is required to approve allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund by a supermajority of eight "yes" votes.

The subcommittee voted 4-0 in favor of offering a favorable recommendation. The board's fifth member, Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti, abstained from the discussion because he is employed by a bank that is supplying funding to the project.

"I'm very hopeful that this will be a project that's going to help downtown regain some of the momentum of the past," said Ward 6 Councilor and subcommittee member Daniel L. Bianchi, a frequent critic of requests from the GE Economic Development Fund, who made the motion to approve the favorable recommendation.

The city has already contributed $1 million in GE Economic Development funds to the cinema center project, but Mayor James M. Ruberto has requested an additional $1.1 million allocation to offset the increase in total costs from what was originally a $12.6 million project.

Construction was originally expected to begin last year, but was delayed when the National Park Service determined that the design did not retain enough of the historic elements of the facade and entryway interior to the historic 90-year-old Kinnell-Kresge building at 48-55 North Street to qualify for federal tax credits.

Construction is now expected to begin on July 15 and take between 14 and 16 months, Richard Stanley of Egremont, the cinema center's managing partner, told the subcommittee last night. The financing on the project is required to close by June 30 in order for construction to begin.

The additional $1.1 million allocation will push the city's contribution to the project up to $2.1 million. Of that sum, $1.5 million will be structured as a 35-year long term loan with a 2 percent interest rate, while the remaining $600,000 will be in the form of a "bridge loan," so named because it would be given in the anticipation of the awarding of additional state historic tax credits.

Repayment of the long-term loan would not occur until 11 years after the cinema center opens, but it contains a 20-year amortization, or payback, period. The entire $2.1 million allocation will be repaid to the city, Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer said.

The subcommittee also approved an amendment that will require a maximum 20-year payback period for all of the city's loans to the project, and a stipulation that all of the funding be returned to the GE Economic Development Fund, a $10 million settlement that Pittsfield received as part of the PCB cleanup agreement that was finalized in October 2000.

Ruffer said the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp., which is providing $7.7 million in equity through tax credits to the project, stipulated that the payback period for the long-term loan begin 11 years after the cinema center opens. She said MHIC's investors require a 10-year waiting period to determine if the cinema center will be a "sustainable, viable project."

The city will be collecting 2 percent in annual interest on the long-term loan during that 10-year period and will also receive additional property tax revenue on the Kinnell-Kresge building during that time, she said.

If problems develop with the financing, Ruffer said the pay back period on the loans could be accelerated.

At the beginning of the meeting, Tim Craw of Pittsfield, the president of the Berkshire County Building Trades Association, said local contractors will not be allowed to bid on the project because of the way the cinema center is currently structured.

Stanley took issue with Craw's statement.

"Anybody can bid on this project," he said.

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"Pittsfield school posts filled"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, May 16, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The School Committee filled three administrative vacancies on Wednesday night and also approved a three-year contract for new Superintendent of Schools Howard J. Eberwein III.

Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Negotiations Barbara Malkas was appointed Deputy Superintendent of Schools succeeding Eberwein. And Morgan Williams was appointed principal at Reid Middle School, while acting Williams Elementary School Principal Brenda Wells was appointed to that position on a full-time basis.

Wells was appointed acting principal at Williams Elementary in December when Linda Avalle became the School Department's mathematics and science coordinator. Morgan Williams, who succeeds Beth Narvaez, has been the principal of Allendale Elementary School for the past two years. There is no timetable for hiring a new principal at Allendale, School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso said.

Filling Malkas' shoes

Malkas' appointment means the School Committee will also have to find a replacement for her old position. Like Eberwein as deputy superintendent, Malkas served as assistant superintendent for personnel and negotiations for one academic year. Her previous position as mathematics and science coordinator was filled by Avalle.

"It's been a snowball effect," Amuso said, referring to all the position-switching.

Eberwein, whose appointment as superintendent was approved by the School Committee on April 9, will receive a first year salary of $125,000, which is about $8,000 more then outgoing Superintendent Katherine E. Darlington's current salary. Eberwein will officially take over on July 1.

Like Darlington, Eberwein will be the city's highest paid municipal employee. The outgoing superintendent makes $33,850 more a year than Mayor James M. Ruberto.

Looking at the numbers

Eberwein's first-year salary was set based on the figure that was advertised with the position was, Amuso said.

"We set that as a target range," she added. "It was just based on what Katherine Darlington was making. It was in the same ballpark."

The School Committee had set Darlington's first year salary of $110,000 six months before she was hired in April 2005 based on a review of superintendent salaries from comparable state school districts. According to Amuso, Malkus had researched superintendent salaries before Eberwein's compensation was set. Darlington's predecessor, William D. Travis, made $103,000 in 2004-05, his final year as Pittsfield's superintendent.

Although the contract was approved four weeks after Eberwein was appointed, Amuso said it actually took less time to finalize that document.

"There were no issues with it," she said.

Eberwein's second- and third-year salaries will be based on a financial formula similar to the one used to calculate Darlington's compensation in the final two years of her contract.

In other business, the School Committee hired Tracey A. Benson as vice principal of Herberg Middle School. Benson is currently staff developer for the office of prevention programs for Broward County Schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He has also worked in North Carolina and Texas.

The School Committee also accepted the resignation of former Deputy Superintendent Henry Kaiser following a one-year stint as a chemistry teacher at Pittsfield High School. Following two years in the position, Kaiser resigned as Deputy Superintendent last year before going to Pittsfield High. Kaiser is leaving the School Department for personal reasons, according to the agenda for Wednesday night's School Committee meeting.

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"Another step for cinema"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Friday, May 16, 2008

Wednesday's unanimous vote by a Pittsfield City Council committee in favor of a $1.1 million allocation from the General Electric Economic Development Fund in the form of a loan gives both a tangible and a psychological boost to the long-awaited Beacon Cinema project on North Street. Assuming the plan receives supermajority approval with eight votes from the full council on May 27, the complex funding project will come together and ground will actually be broken in July. That would give a boost to the city as well.

With construction costs rising not far behind the rate of gasoline, and a delay in this year's projected start caused by the National Park Service's concern that historic elements of the Kinnell-Kresge building would be lost in the course of renovation, the project needed a financial shot in the arm. It had already been infused with $1 million in two installments of the GE Fund, but Mayor Ruberto's request for an additional $1.1 million was made easy to accept because of the loan structuring. Of the $2.1 million, $1.5 million will be repaid as a long-term loan, with the remainder in the form of a bridge loan in anticipation of the arrival of historic tax credits. The need for tax credits is one reason for the project's financial complexity and the explanation for why groups like the Park Service have say over the details of the plan.

The subcommittee added an amendment requiring the loan money be repaid back into the GE Fund, a $10 million package created eight years ago as part of the PCB Consent Decree. A little over $5 million remains in the pool, and repayment of the loan to the fund will help address concerns that enough money be on hand to encourage a business interested in coming to Pittsfield to make that commitment.

In backing the plan, Ward 6 Councilor Daniel Bianchi expressed the hope that the project "will help downtown regain some of the momentum of the past." With the council, City Hall, developer Richard Stanley and the many others who have pushed the project over hills and through valleys these past few years continuing to do so, the cinema center has a real chance of doing just that.

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http://extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/outlook/2005outlook/default.asp?id=article06
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"Patrick gives Pittsfield the means to grow"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, May 17, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Gov. Deval L. Patrick yesterday unveiled a plan designed to provide additional economic incentives for Pittsfield, particularly the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires on East Street.

At a City Hall press conference, Patrick named Pittsfield the state's latest "municipal growth district" — one of 16 "development ready" sites in the state where residential and commercial development will be accelerated.

In addition to the William Stanley Business Park, the "Pittsfield Urban Center Revitalization District" includes downtown, the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods — the city's two poorest areas, and sections of a proposed greenway along the west branch of the Housatonic River.

The designation levies a variety of state and federal development programs, including a streamlined 180-day permitting process that will benefit the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which manages the Stanley Business Park.

"I know that" — streamlining of the permitting process — "doesn't sound like a glamorous thing, but that is enormously important to the business community," Patrick said.

"It's the No. 1 thing that I hear from people all over the commonwealth — that it's hard and slow and unpredictable to work your way through the approval process through the state and to some extent the local level. ... This will really help us bear down on that."

Patrick said the municipal growth districts are modeled on initiatives, first begun under former Gov. Mitt Romney's administration, that have been used to revitalize the former Fort Devens military base north of Boston. In addition to Devens, the six other municipal growth districts are in Attleborough, Chicopee, Haverhill, New Bedford, Weymouth and Worcester. Pittsfield is the eighth.

"A lot of thought went into creating a district where permitting was simplified, and infrastructure and other underground investments were made on the front end," Patrick said. "Then, that district was offered as a magnet for attracting new business investment expansion.

"We have looked to take that Devens model and replicate it across the commonwealth by identifying 16 other places that would serve as growth districts, both for business growth, housing development, or mixed use."

Patrick said the benefits of being a growth district will vary depending on the site.

"They have different needs," he said. "Some redevelopment sites need infrastructure improvement. That's less true of PEDA but that's also true of PEDA depending on the companies that come in."

Patrick said the initiative is targeted mostly for Pittsfield's urban areas and the Stanley Business Park. The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which runs the Stanley Business Park, was formed in 1998, but General Electric did not turn over the site's first 27 acres to the city until three years ago.

Pittsfield has been actively marketing the business park to potential customers since 2003, the year GE began to demolish buildings on the site. The site has languished, however, and a deal last year to bring Petricca Industries Inc. to the park was scrapped when the company decided to expand on its current property.

The governor's $1 billion life-sciences bond bill, which is near completion, includes $6.5 million for an incubator building at the Stanley Business Park, which would be the first building constructed there since GE turned over the land to the city. Developing the PEDA site is also considered key to lowering Pittsfield's high commercial tax rate, especially to relieve the burden on the city's small business owners.

When asked specifically how the new designation would help the Stanley Business Park grow, Patrick said it would provide the city with marketing assistance and a method to speed up the permitting process.

"We have a whole portfolio of destinations that we use for companies and residential developers" interested in growing in Massachusetts, he said. "Being able to say to a company that is considering an expansion site ... 'Consider PEDA and here's why and here are some of the elements we can make available to assist' is powerful. It's how Devens had been used and how Devens has become successful."

In a related move, Patrick also announced that a $191,000 work force training grant has been awarded to Crane & Co. in Dalton to train 210 employees in lean manufacturing and waste-reduction techniques.

Mayor James M. Ruberto and four members of the county's legislative delegation in attendance praised Patrick for his partnership efforts.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, whose district includes the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, said the governor's initiatives will benefit not just Pittsfield, but the entire Berkshire region.

"As Pittsfield goes, so goes the county," Pignatelli said. "What we are really doing here today is the injection of fuel to get that economic engine back."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Goal for Pittsfield parade: $85K"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, May 17, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade Committee is looking for help to meet its fundraising goal for this year's parade.

The goal is $85,000, which includes $35,000 for musical acts and roughly $17,000 for balloons.

The theme of the parade is "A World of Music," and more than 12 musical acts have already been booked for what many call New England's largest Fourth of July celebration.

The parade dates back to 1824 and attracts crowds of up to 100,000. Visitors often line their chairs up along North Street at 6 a.m. to make sure they get a great viewing spot.

Peter Marchetti, treasurer and coordinator of the committee, said about $11,000 has been raised for the parade thus far. Last year was the first time in the past five years that the committee met its goal, which was also set at $85,000.

Marchetti said members of the committee knew this would be a difficult year with current economic conditions. Plans have been made to use reserve funds if the goal is not met.

"I'm more concerned about next year's budget, because we use some of the money from the current year to fund next year's parade," he said.

Fans of the parade can help by purchasing the 2008 Pittsfield Parade Poster for a $25 donation. The poster was created by folk artist Suzanne Goudreau and depicts Tanglewood on the Fourth of July.

Goudreau will sign posters on June 3 at Greylock Federal Credit Union on West Street from noon to 1 p.m.

People can also purchase posters at the following locations: Steven's World of Carpets in the Allendale Shopping Center; Pasko Frame and Gift, 243 North St.; Pittsfield Visitors Center at the Colonial Theatre; Elm Street Hardware, 129 Elm St.; Miller Supply, 205 West St.; and The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St.

Donations can be sent to the Pittsfield Parade Committee Inc., P.O. Box 1738, Pittsfield, MA 01202.

Today's Gifts

Berkshire Gas $750

Barry Architects Inc. 1,000

Berkshire Council Navy League 50

Ray Murray Inc 50

Lombardi, Clairmont & Keegan 150

Irwin Browner 50

Anonymous 100

Jones Trophies 100

William E Noonan CPA 50

Animal ER of the Berkshires 100

Demartino Physical Therapy Inc. 50

Sheriff Carmen C Massimiano Jr and the Deputies of Berkshire County 500

Berkshire Health Systems 500

R A Wilson Electrical 100

Billy's Trucking Inc. 100

MacFarlane Office Products 150

Maxymillian Technologies Inc. 1,000

General Systems Co Inc. 300

Hancock Fire Dept. 50

Petricca Industries 150

Stevenson & Co. Inc. 150

Kimball Farms 750

The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank 1,000

Monteleone Floor Covering 50

Richmond Networx 100

Comalli Electric 750

Rodhouse Tax Service Inc. 50

Laborers Local 473 150

Foresight Land Services 150

Canyon Ranch 500

Berkshire Allergy Care 100

Western Mass ATV Association 100

Sabic Innovative Plastics 1,500

Interprint Inc. 150

In memory of

Arthur Petell-Veteran of World War II, by wife Loretta and family. Sadly missed. 50

Today's total: $10,850

Total to date: $10,850

Needed to reach goal: $74,150

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"Ruberto Signs Gateway Cities Compact"
iBerkshires.com - May 19, 2008

BOSTON — United in their desire for economic renewal, the chief executives of 11 Massachusetts cities today signed a proclamation forming an alliance to address the challenges and opportunities inherent in their aging economies.

Named the "Gateways Compact for Community and Economic Development," the partnership hopes to draw investment to communities outside of Boston while providing benefits such as housing, infrastructure and workers to all of Massachusetts.

"For cities like ours, which share a common industrial past and a desire to make new economic connections, the Gateways Compact offers a shared vision for sustainable economic development," said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, who signed the petition along with mayors and leaders from Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester.

The signing ceremony at the Old State House in Boston was sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Urban Initiative, partners in enabling the alliance.

"We're here in our state's capitol to emphasize to our partners in the Legislature and the governor's office that this new urban agenda not only strengthens our communities, it offers a platform for addressing statewide economic issues that are causing the commonwealth to lose jobs and industry to other states," said Ruberto.

Pittsfield was named one of Patrick's 16 targeted growth districts on Friday. The designation, which covers the city's urban center and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority site on former GE property, puts the city on track for priority aid with permitting, marketing and other economic help.

Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, a former mayor of Worcester, praised the Gateways Compact, saying the shared circumstances of these cities and their potential for renewal requires a collaborative and concentrated effort.

"Governor Patrick and I enthusiastically recognize the Gateways City Compact and the value that these communities have to our overall economy," he said. "The action items that the group has identified today are important to the Patrick administration and we look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration in the form of increased investment, more jobs, and a better quality of life across the board."

The partnership on local economic revitalization stems from recommendations outlined in last year's MassINC/Brookings Institute report "Reconnecting Massachusetts Gateway Cities: Lessons Learned and an Agenda for Renewal," which studied the economic status and potential of 11 traditional mill communities outside of Greater Boston.

Named the "Gateway Cities" for their historic role in attracting foreign workers, these communities were found to suffer significant job and investment losses from the decline in manufacturing over the last three decades while gaining little traction in Massachusetts' thriving but limited "knowledge economy."

According to MassINC's report, since 1970, the 11 Gateway cities studied lost more than 11,000 jobs or 3 percent of their job base, while Greater Boston's gain of 467,000 jobs reflected a growth of 51 percent. Gateway Cities are home to 30 percent of all Massachusetts residents living under the poverty line, even though they account for only 15 percent of the state's population. Education attainment levels remain low with just 16.5 percent of Gateway city residents possessing a four-year college degree.

Pittsfield lost thousands of jobs after the region's major employer, General Electric, shuttered much of its operations and moved its headquarters. GE has since sold off its plastics division to a Saudi Arabian firm (which has pledged to stay in Pittsfield) and turned over 52 acres for the creation of the William Stanley Business Park, operated by PEDA.

The report's recommendations also offered a promising challenge to these urban areas and the state to use these economic conditions as advantages, recognizing that Gateway cities offer potential assets in terms of middle-class housing, infrastructure to pursue smart growth, and a growing, diverse work force. The report recommended seeking partnerships, like the one with the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative, and with each other, to bring numbers, focus and momentum to their efforts.

Through the alliance, Gateway leaders hope to combine strategies in areas such as education, real estate investment, work force development, and transportation that bring industry and residents back into these communities. In addition to creating a formal structure that collaborates regularly, the compact includes [among others] the following initiatives:

Work with the governor, the Legislature and state officials for a new comprehensive, urban economic-development vision for Massachusetts.

Provide the commonwealth with innovative strategies to address the state's housing, infrastructure, environmental and labor force challenges.

Market the many opportunities in the Gateway cities for economic growth.

Share and embrace best practices in areas such as public safety, education and work-force development, economic development and city management.

"It is both unprecedented and incredibly pragmatic for these leaders to be coming together with a common agenda for economic reconnection," said Edward J. Lambert, executive director of the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative. "By combining strategies and experiences on issues that are so consistent among these communities, the potential for real results in this area becomes that much greater."

"We commend the leaders of the Gateway cities for their creative, collaborative and proactive approach to reinventing themselves in light of their economic struggles, said John Schneider, executive vice president of MassINC. "The innovation and energy evidenced by the compact are indicative of what is great and promising about these historic communities."
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Mayor James Ruberto, left, with Gov. Deval Patrick last week.
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www.iberkshires.com/story/27177/Ruberto-Signs-Gateway-Cities-Compact.html
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www.massinc.org
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www.iberkshires.com/story/27154/Pittsfield-s-Center-Named-Growth-District.html
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News & Notes: "Pittsfield School Study to Be Unveiled"
By Larry Kratka - May 19, 2008 - Berkshire News Network

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield High School library should be crowded tonight when the High School Study Committee delivers its report to the School Committee, the City Council and the public.

During late fall and early winter, in-coming School Superintendent Jake Eberwein led the study group, along with a consultant, to put together a plan that will affect high school students for years to come.

The city last year hired Dore & Whittier Architects Inc. to explore building options for its two high schools, including the possibility of closing either Taconic or Pittsfield High. The educational consultant working with study committee is from Dore & Whittier.

The group is expected to offer options for educational delivery and facilities.

Mayor James Ruberto has been saying he wants a new high school and speculation is that a combined academic and technical high school would be built ... possibly where Taconic High School sits right now. Maybe not, but we'll find out tonight beginning at 7.

Pittsfield Community Television will broadcast the meeting live.

Provided by iBerkshires media partners WNAW and WUPE.

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"GE fund move urged"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A City Council subcommittee last night approved a $350,000 allocation from the GE Economic Development Fund for a Lenox company that plans to bring 100 jobs to Pittsfield.

LTI Smart Glass LLC of Lenox Dale, a supplier of laminated glass and polymer products, is planning to invest more than $5 million on an expansion project that includes the purchase of the 35,000 square foot former J&L Fibers factory building at 14 Federico Drive.

The firm plans to transfer 50 full-time employees to Pittsfield, and add an additional 50 full-time jobs by 2011. It also intends to expand the former factory to between 80,000 and 90,000 square feet.

The expanded building will be the headquarters for the LTI Group, which will include LTI Smart Glass and its sister company, Laminated Technologies Inc., which is based in Melbourne, Fla.

The economic and community development subcommittee's favorable recommendation, approved by a unanimous vote, will now be considered by the full council, possibly at its next meeting on May 27.

The 11-member council is required to approve allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund by a super majority of eight yes votes.

"I think this is probably a perfect fit for what this program is for," Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti said, referring to allocations from the GE Economic Development Fund.

The $350,000 in GE Economic Development funds will be dispersed to LTI based on the company achieving six benchmarks, two capital project, and four job creation commitments. The funding will be secured by a deferred payment, forgivable eight year promissory note and mortgage that will be placed on the former J&L Fibers building.

Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti suggested the promissory note/mortgage be extended from eight to 10 years because he said it's possible the city will propose a 10-year Tax Increment Finance, or TIF, package for the firm. Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer later confirmed that the city will offer LTI a TIF package.

The subcommittee also approved an amendment proposed by Marchetti that would require LTI to repay the city all of the dispersed GE funds within 10 years if the firm relocates out of Pittsfield; or if the company's employment during the last five years of that 10 year period drops below 60 employees for more than 18 months.

"What I'm proposing is a little more protection on our end," Marchetti said.

The subcommittee also approved a second amendment, proposed by Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop, that would require all of LTI's full-time jobs to average at least $30,000 per year. The subcommittee arrived at that average by agreeing to subtract the salaries of LTI co-owners John Martino and Jeff Besse.

Lothrop said the intention was to set a policy that would make companies looking for assistance from the city to relocate to Pittsfield, "adhere to certain standards." Lothrop said he didn't want companies offering an average of $5,000 in yearly salaries with no benefits approaching the city for assistance.

Besse and Martino said they make innovative and laminated glass and polymer products for a variety of industries, which include the National Security Agency, the Aeropostale retail chain, and the security and detention market, which includes bombproof glass for U.S. Embassies around the world.

Many of their products are made of clear plastic glass that contains sensors that turn the surface dark.

"We get a lot of wow factors out of these products," Martino said.

William Hines Sr., retired CEO of Interprint and board chair of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, said LTI considered relocating to the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires but chose not to because the construction of a new building would not serve their expansion needs.

"They couldn't wait another year for a new facility," Hines said.

"What I like about their business and products is they're highly innovative and not easily duplicated by knockoff specialists," Hines said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"Local officials express shock at diagnosis"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If anyone knows what it's like to live with cancer, it's Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, whose wife, Ellen, was diagnosed three years ago.

Asked if he had any words of advice for the family of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor yesterday, the normally loquacious Ruberto responded with just one word.

"Prayer."

Across Berkshire County, those who have known or worked with the 76-year-old Kennedy during his 45-year Senate career reacted to yesterday's diagnosis with a mixture of sadness, disbelief and hope.

"This is like Silvio Conte; deja vu all over again," said North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, recalling the longtime U.S. congressman from Pittsfield who died from complications associated with cancer on Feb. 8, 1991. Barrett said Conte had told him he had cancer a couple of months before he died.

"I couldn't imagine life without Silvio Conte, and it's the same with Ted Kennedy," Barrett said.

Barrett said he learned of Kennedy's condition shortly after the news broke yesterday afternoon. The two men have had a personal relationship, Barrett said, adding that Kennedy called him after his wife, Eileen, died of breast cancer in June 1990.

"It's probably as emotional as I've felt in a long time," Barrett said. "It shocked me the other day by the news that he had a (seizure). He's the kind of person where you feel he'd always be there."

Based on his personal experiences with cancer, Barrett had advice for Kennedy's family.

"They've got to believe," Barrett said. "Everything today is so treatable."

Kennedy's eldest son, Edward M. Kennedy Jr., a health-care attorney and advocate for cancer patients, lost his right leg to a rare form of bone cancer when he was a teenager. The senator has "seen it in his own family," Barrett added. "If any family can understand, it would be that family."

One of Kennedy's closest friends in the Berkshires, Fairview Hospital President Eugene A. Dellea, said he spoke yesterday with the senator's other son, Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island.

"We're hoping for the best," Dellea said.

Another friend, James Kelly, the president of Kelly Enterprises, has known Kennedy since 1963. Kennedy wanted to ski the Thunderbolt Trail on Mount Greylock, and Kelly said he towed him up the mountain on a snowmobile.

Kennedy and his family also skied regularly at the former Brodie Mountain Ski Area, which Kelly built in 1964.

"I almost fell down," James said, noting his reaction to the news of Kennedy's cancer. "My son just told me."

"This is just terrible news," said Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. "We've all come to be so dependent on him because he always delivered for us no matter what it is."

Massimiano, who was appointed sheriff in 1978, said he has a political relationship with Kennedy and has always found him to be "very gracious and very kind."

"He has always spoken for the poor, the dispossessed, the elderly, and (has) always taken on the cause of people who had nobody else," Massimiano said. "I admire him for that."

Lee Harrison, the chairman of the Berkshire Brigades, the county's Democratic Party organization, said his group has never held a specific event for Kennedy, but that the senator has participated in several Berkshire events the organization has put on.

"We certainly hope that recovery is possible for the senator," Harrison said. "His stature goes without saying. I just wish him well and hope he lives for 1,000 years."

As Ruberto said, pray.

"I've learned over the last three years that prayer is the most powerful of all medicines," Ruberto said. "I've already said a prayer for Senator Kennedy. ... I'm looking forward to seeing him return to Pittsfield in good health."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Wahconah Park Gets Upgrades"
iBerkshires.com - May 21, 2008

PITTSFIELD – Mayor James M. Ruberto announced today that the City of Pittsfield is closing in on the first phase of a year and a half refurbishment project for Wahconah Park.

Before the first Pittsfield Dukes home game on June 9, against Danbury, CT, the Pittsfield Maintenance Department has been working to finish both the home and away team locker rooms. Old black and blue locker rooms with paint chipped metal folding chairs have been traded in for a light grey and maroon paint and new seating for the players. The carpets have been replaced along with the light fixtures that are brighter and more energy efficient. The bathrooms and showers have been completely replaced and coming in under budget.

“Our maintenance team has put in a lot of hard work to get the Park ready for the 2008 season. During the season we will evaluate the rest of the refurbishment plans for feasibility and money savings,” said Ernie Fortini, Director of Maintenance for the City of Pittsfield.

The new LED scoreboard has been installed by Callahan Signs and is fully operational. The outfield will get a new sprinkler system, the infield will be torn up and replaced, the screening behind home plate will be extended to protect the fans, a new roof will be installed, and the speaker system will be upgraded.

“Wahconah Park has had organized baseball since 1892 and we plan on keeping the tradition alive,” said Mayor Ruberto. “There are two seasons, winter and baseball, and I am glad the good weather has arrived. With the renovations that have already taken place and the ones in the works, we will definitely improve the look and feel of Wahconah Park.”

Current plans are to move the men’s room to one of the concession stands and then turn the existing men’s room into an expanded women’s room, with will almost double its size and be cleaner, brighter, and more water and energy efficient. “With the money saved from multiple smaller projects at the Park, a pavilion to the right of the entrance is being proposed that would give families a place to sit down and enjoy a nice summer day before the game or during the 7th inning stretch,” said Ernie.

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"Who appoints bullies to office?"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

While watching a rebroadcast of the May 20 Park Commission meeting, I was amazed by the rudeness of Commission chairman John Herman toward a citizen of Pittsfield who was giving a report on behalf of the Hebert Arboretum in Springside Park.

This very nice lady was asking for help in coming up with a master plan for the future direction of the arboretum, and Mr. Herman interjected the fact that he hoped that she realized that the park belongs to the city of Pittsfield, and it didn't matter what these people decided, because if the city wanted to go in a different direction they would. At this point the lady told him that the city of Pittsfield consists of the people of Pittsfield, not the government.

I was very happy to see this man put in his place by a person who probably spends more time in Springside Park in a month than he has in his life. It's time that the citizens of Pittsfield took our city back from bullies ad tyrants like Mr. Herman, and started governing ourselves again. I hope that in the next series of elections, more people will come out and vote so that we can get a true read on who is elected to appoint people like this man.

JIM GLEASON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Dead trees are a Pontoosuc worry"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, May 26, 2008

Our city government has money for the Colonial Theatre, economic development and for businesses to get started. All well good.

However, I have written to Mayor Ruberto and the Parks Department in the past year suggesting that someone look at the many dead trees at the south end of Pontoosuc Lake that are a definite safety hazard to all who use the picnic area. One tree in particular is a tall pine about 100 feet high with no bark whatsoever. The top-third of the tree is completely dead. I have watched a countless number of both kids and adults walk and picnic under these trees. Whatever it costs to take them down would be nothing compared to someone killed or badly injured.

I know the city stopped cutting trees years ago, but there are plenty of tree cutters available for hire.

BILL HARRINGTON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"$1.1M OK'd for city cinema project"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night approved a measure to lend $1.1 million from the GE Economic Development Fund to the Beacon Cinema project on North Street.
The unanimous vote moves the delayed project, budgeted at $22.4 million, closer to construction, which officials said last night could begin in July.

The council approved the plan 9-0, with Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti and Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward abstaining because their employers have business relations with the cinema center's managing partner, Richard Stanley of Egremont.

Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi, known for his tough critiques of GE Economic Development Fund requests, said the loan "was a good way to use these dollars."

The city has already contributed $1 million in GE Economic Development funds to the cinema center project, but Mayor James M. Ruberto requested the allocation to offset the increase in total costs from what was originally a $12.6 million project.

Construction on the 90-year-old Kinnell-Kresge building at 48-55 North Street is expected to take between 14 and 16 months.

Before the vote, Tim Craw of Pittsfield, president of the Berkshire County Building Trades Association, asked the City Council to table it for two weeks. He said Stanley is hiring carpenters from Allegrone Construction Co. Inc. to work on the project, but that other local contractors were not allowed to bid.

Craw said a two-week period would allow his group to continue discussions with Stanley in the hopes of getting work for other local laborers.

"Wouldn't it have been nice for Stanley to have given work to some of these local guys?" Craw said later in the evening.

Bianchi and several other councilors said the allocation of GE funds would have no effect on those discussions, but they did encourage both sides to iron out their differences.

Stanley pledged to "continue the process to work with them."

The additional $1.1 million allocation will push the city's contribution to the project up to $2.1 million.

Of that sum, $1.5 million will be structured as a 35-year long-term loan with a 2 percent interest rate, while the remaining $600,000 will be in the form of a "bridge loan," so named because it would be given in anticipation of the awarding of additional state historic tax credits.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop said the project was special in that it joined the efforts of a private business with local banks, state aid and city government.

"This is the future of Pittsfield," he said. "Everyone can afford movies."

Ruberto said the cinema center will bring an estimated 200,000 people to North Street each year.

In other business, the City Council unanimously approved a $350,000 allocation from the GE Economic Development Fund for LTI Smart Glass LLC of Lenox Dale.

The company plans to bring 100 jobs to Pittsfield and to invest more than $5 million on an expansion project that includes the purchase of the 35,000-square-foot former J&L Fibers factory building at 14 Federico Drive. The firm plans to transfer 50 full-time employees to Pittsfield and to add an additional 50 full-time jobs by 2011.

The City Council also approved a measure to install stop signs at the three-way intersection of Pomeroy Avenue and East Housatonic Street.

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"Pittsfield School Committee OKs budget, principal: City Council will likely 'embrace' fiscal cuts"
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, May 29, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield School Committee last night voted to approve the district's $49.5 million budget for fiscal 2009 and the appointment of a new high school principal.

The budget vote came after a final tweak: Two hall monitor positions for the high schools were proposed, and then recently withdrawn, from the spending plan. The removal shaved an additional $50,000 from the level-funded budget.

The budget now has a final hurdle — the City Council, which will review the spending plan at a meeting on June 18.

Mayor gives nod

With the last few cuts in place, the budget most likely will be "wholeheartedly embraced" by the City Council, said Mayor James M. Ruberto, an ex officio member of the School Committee.

To replace the lost hall monitor positions, the district is considering installing cameras in the high school hallways, said Sally Douglas, the assistant superintendent of business and finance.

The Committee also appointed Christopher Sposato as principal of Pittsfield High School beginning Aug. 1.

Addressing the assembly last night, Sposato, who is a Pittsfield resident, told the group that he was "looking forward to being a part of a team."

Sposato, 39, who graduated from Pittsfield High School in 1987, noted that his daughter is a student in the city's public school system.

'I'm thankful for the opportunity'

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve (my) community," he said.

He is currently the vice principal of Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire.

In other business, Alicia Couture, director of Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and Deputy Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, presented the district's updated emergency response plan.

Eberwein, who will take over as superintendent of schools on July 1, noted that the plan uses clear language to describe lock-downs, evacuations, and other school emergency procedures.

"We're no longer using obscure language like 'code blue,' " Eberwein said, noting that teachers and administrators often have to consult a binder to figure out what many of the terms mean.

Couture told the group that the district now has an FCC license, so the schools can communicate by radio with the police and fire departments. Schools also can communicate with one another by radio, she said.

Parents can be notified of an emergency by announcements on local television stations, radio, the Pittsfield.net Web site, and reverse 911, Couture said. Major businesses in the city also would contacted.

Couture suggested that parents also make sure their contact information is current at their child's school.
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To reach Jessica Willis: jwillis@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 528-3660.
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"Pittsfield budget: 4.1% tax hike sought"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, May 30, 2008

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CORRECTION

Mayor James M. Ruberto did not suggest the possibility of a 5.2 percent property tax increase in the fiscal 2009 city budget. A 5.2 percent increase was suggested last year when the mayor's fiscal 2008 city budget proposal was released. The information was incorrect in an article in Friday's Eagle.

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PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto yesterday presented a $126.9 million fiscal 2009 budget proposal to the City Council that includes a potential 4.1 percent increase in the property tax rate.

The mayor's plan will increase city spending by roughly 3.2 percent, or some $3.9 million, and the proposed 4.1 percent increase in property taxes is lower than the 5.2 increase that originally had been suggested. Pittsfield's residential and commercial property tax rates are not officially set until December.

If the budget passes in its current form, the tax bill for the average Pittsfield house with an assessed value of $195,185 would rise $102.08 in fiscal 2009, from $2,491.93 to $2,594.01.

And the commercial tax rate would increase 90 cents, from $28.35 to $29.25 per $1,000 in assessed value. The average commercial tax bill would increase $783.96 a year, a jump of almost 5 percent.

Reading from a written statement during a special meeting of the council yesterday, Ruberto said that his spending plan "is again based on the priorities, goals and objectives that we set for the city since 2004," and that the document is "truly designed to meeting the challenging needs of an urban center."

Given the "hyper-inflating" costs of both health care and energy, Ruberto said, residents and city government have been forced to make "delicate spending decisions."

To ease the financial burden on residents, he has suggested a $1.5 million allocation from the free cash account to lower the tax rate, which is less than the $2 million appropriation the council approved last year.

But even with the influx of free cash, the value of the average single-family home is expected to rise $5,685, or 3 percent, and the residential tax rate will increase 14 cents, from $13.15 to $13.29 per $1,000 in assessed value.

Ruberto said he was pleased that the proposed levy increase and free cash allocation are less than last year, but added, "I am equally frustrated and disappointed to acknowledge we are faced with yet another tax hike."

"We worked hard to get there," Ruberto said yesterday, referring to the property tax increase during an interview in his office. "This budget wasn't settled on completely or agreed upon until Tuesday."

The City Council now will consider Ruberto's proposal during a series of five public hearings that will place between June 3 and 18.

Two years ago, the council fought over every expenditure in Ruberto's spending plan before reducing an anticipated 3.7 percent tax increase by one percentage point. Last year, the council cut no funding from his proposal and unanimously approved all but one of his suggested appropriations for 35 city departments.

Council President Gerald M. Lee said yesterday that he does not know the direction the council will take when it tackles the budget this time.

"I really don't know," he said. "I had an opportunity to look at it two days ago, and then it was still in a state of flux. For me to be able to give a definitive answer is really premature. I really haven't had a chance to go over it. I don't have a sense of it, and I don't think the other councilors do, either."

From what he has seen of the budget, Lee said, it appears that the projections are more in line with actual city spending.

"I think what (Ruberto) has done this time around is put money that we anticipate we will use rather than what we hope we'll spend," Lee said.

The single biggest expenditure, a $48.9 million appropriation for the school budget, has increased less than 1 percent from the current fiscal year, following a 5 percent jump from fiscal 2007.

The mayor has proposed the addition of two patrol officers to the Police Department and the addition of a half position to the animal control staff.

His spending plan also includes an $8.2 million capital budget request, including $3 million to improve roads and sidewalks in Pittsfield's neighborhoods and $4.5 million for a new Highway Department garage and office.

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"Pittsfield plans to assess properties"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The city's Board of Assessors is planning to institute a "measure and list" project that will include interior and exterior inspections of all 14,000 of Pittsfield's residential, commercial and industrial structures for the first time since 1982.

The move will result in more accurate and up-to-date data on Pittsfield's residential and commercial property values. The state Department of Revenue required Pittsfield to undertake this project as one of the prerequisites in approving the city's current tax rate last December, said Board of Assessors' Chairman William D. Marsele yesterday.

"We haven't done it in a while," Marsele said, "so there's a lack of confidence in the system."

He said that building-permit work on city structures has been kept pretty much up-to-date since 1990, but that some property values listed on the city's revaluation cards could either have changed or be listed in error.

The inspectors may find that some property values have been assessed too high.

"This could very well work out for the property owner, too," he said.

The project is scheduled to begin in the middle of June and is expected to last 15 months, although it may be completed by the end of this year, Marsele said.

The new property values will not be available until fiscal 2010.

Cost has been prohibitive

There has not been an interior-exterior inspection of all of Pittsfield's structures in 26 years because the cost is so expensive, Marsele said.

This project will cost the city more than $300,000, which was provided for in the fiscal 2008 budget, he added. He said properties will be inspected from the basement to the attic.

"Of all the projects the city does, this is the most invasive because we're going door-to-door," Marsele said.

Firm hired for inspections

The city has hired the firm of Cole, Layer and Trumbull of Tolland, Conn., which is certified in Massachusetts as a revaluation firm, to do the inspections. All of the inspectors will be CLT employees.

Background checks have been done on all the CLT inspectors, and they also will be carrying identification when they visit homes, Marsele said.

"The public is not mandated to let us in," Marsele said. "But we ask for their cooperation (because) the better data you have on assessment levels, the better the equalization is for taxes in the city."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Pittsfield departments clear budget hurdle - [Pittsfield City Council Hearings under way on $126.9M spending plan]"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

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CORRECTION:
Of the 62 clients working with Pittsfield's Veterans' Services Department, seven live at the Soldier On facility on West Housatonic Street, while the remaining 55 are Pittsfield residents. Veterans' Agent Roseanne M. Frieri stated this information inaccurately during a City Council budget hearing. The information was reported in an article in Wednesday's Eagle.
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PITTSFIELD — There were questions, statements and one long discussion. But no budget cuts.

In the first of five public hearings on Mayor James M. Ruberto's $126.9 million fiscal 2009 budget proposal, the City Council last night gave preliminary approval to the seven individual department spending plans under consideration.

The council gave unanimous approval to Ruberto's suggested budgets for the office of the city clerk, the Berkshire Athenaeum, the building inspectors, the Council on Aging, the City Council and the mayor's office. The Veterans' Service budget was approved 9-2, with Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio casting the dissenting votes.

Suggested budgets for the Board of Appeals and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which originally were scheduled to take place last night, were continued for public hearings on June 9 and June 17, respectively.

The council's second budget public hearing will take place tonight. The fifth and last hearing is scheduled for June 18.

The Veterans' Services budget generated the most discussion last night, as the council defeated by a vote of 6-5 a motion by Maffuccio to cut by half a proposed $26,630 salary for a new administrative assistant position.

Veterans' Agent Rosanne M. Frieri had requested the additional position to help handle a client list she said has increased from 26 to 62 cases. Frieri, the only full-time employee, said her office has had a difficult time keeping up with the paperwork for veterans for whom the city provides financial aid. Program expenses have increased from $100,000 during the current fiscal year to $230,000 in Ruberto's proposed spending plan.

Although the city is reimbursed 75 percent of the funding that it authorizes for veterans' financial aid, it has not received that sum in a timely fashion because the increased workload has left the office behind in paperwork.

"The office is extremely busy," Frieri said. "Every person we see requires an application. They have to be investigated on a three-month basis. It's a tremendous amount of work for one person to make sure people are on and off the rolls at the proper times."

In asking for the salary cut, Maffuccio said the city should not be hiring full-time employees while the economy is struggling.

During discussion, Frieri said that 30 to 40 of the cases her office is handling are from veterans living at the Soldier On facility on West Housatonic Street. Many of those veterans do not come from Pittsfield.

Instead of hiring a second full-time employee, Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi suggested that the city should ask Soldier On's President and CEO John F. Downing Jr. to share some of the responsibility.

"I think they should be helping out, and I think there should really be some discussion," Bianchi said, addressing Frieri directly. "They have been good neighbors and a good organization, but it's burdened you as a veterans' agent. You've got to ask him to pitch in."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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City Council budget hearings

Last night: City Clerk, Berkshire Athenaeum, Building Inspectors, Council on Aging, Veterans, City Council, mayor's office.

Tonight: Solicitor, Personnel, Cultural Development, Water & Sewer, Public Works & Utilities.

June 9: Community Development, Revolving Accounts, Capital Budget, Maintenance, Finance & Administration, Unclassified, Workers Compensation, Board of Appeals.

June 17: Airport, Health Department, RSVP, Police Department, Fire Department, Free Cash.

June 18: School Department.

Published June 4, 2008
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"Misguided vote on stop sign"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On May 27, the Pittsfield City Council voted to put a 3-way stop sign on East Housatonic St. at the intersection with Pomeroy Ave. The proposal was initiated by Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop who admitted that there was no safety problem at that intersection but said that the purpose was to slow down traffic in general on East Housatonic.

When Councilor Mike Ward objected that the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) specifically advises that "Stop signs should not be used for speed control," Councilor Dan Bianchi dismissed this as "some federal document" and Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, who chairs the Council's Traffic Commission, admitted that Public Works Commissioner Bruce Collingwood had opposed the sign.

I have no doubt that the councilors who voted for the sign did so out of a sincere belief that they would be improving conditions for residents along East Housatonic, but the MUTCD guidelines derived from years of research showing that the use of stop signs to slow traffic on primary routes is counterproductive, inciting drivers to speed up even more when moving away from the sign, increasing vehicle noise and emissions, as well as the risk of rear-end collisions, and discouraging the overall observance of traffic controls. This means that the net results of the council action are likely to be exactly the opposite of what was intended.

More important, the "Massachusetts Amendments to the MUTCD" which can be obtained from the Mass Highway Web site states: "The purpose of the stop sign is to prevent cross collisions. It is not intended, nor shall it be used for the control of speed, traffic calming or to forestall pedestrian, rear-end or turning movement accidents," and goes on to say that "Multi-way stop signs must (emphasis in the original) meet the warrant criteria as outlined in Section 2B.07 of the 2003 MUTCD."

So not only was the Council action misguided; it violates both Massachusetts and federal guidelines, which could open the city to liability if an accident were to occur at that intersection. It might even be illegal. Certainly, it needs to be reversed as quickly as possible.

JAN WERNER
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"City Council cuts culture cash"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, June 05, 2008

PITTSFIELD — In the second of five public hearings on the fiscal 2009 city budget, the City Council last night cut $13,315 from the Office of Cultural Development.

The council voted 7-4 in favor of a motion by Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio to reduce by half a proposed $26,630 salary for a new full-time administrative assistant. The salary cut reduced the Office of Cultural Development's proposed spending plan from $92,085 to $79,790.

It was the first, and so far only, reduction the council has approved from Mayor James M. Ruberto's $126.9 million budget proposal.

Last night, the council gave preliminary approval to the mayor's allocations for the solicitor's office, personnel department, the water, sewer and waste water enterprise funds, and five departments within Public Works & Utilities.

Maffuccio last night also made a motion to cut Cultural Development Director Megan Whilden's salary from $45,705 to $1, but the proposal failed by a 10-1 vote.

"In the budget itself, there's nowhere possible where we could cut without sacrificing services to the taxpayer," Maffuccio said after the meeting, when asked why he proposed cutting Whilden's salary. "I don't think that her position is a benefit to the taxpayers. ... I think it's a luxury department."

Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti said that in March he had asked Ruberto to add the administrative assistant's position to Whilden's department to assist her with clerical duties.

"My opinion was that the office was a clerical mess," Marchetti said. "If the office was not run efficiently, then we should not have it at all."

Last night's debate mirrored concerns expressed on Monday night when the council narrowly defeated a motion by Maffuccio that would have cut by half a similarly salaried administrative assistant's position for veterans' services. Several councilors said they were reluctant to add additional full-time positions to the city payroll in an uncertain economy.

"The need for a full-time assistant, I think, is a toss-up at best," said Councilor at large Kevin J. Sherman.

The council suggested using volunteers to fill the administrative assistant's spot, or creating a position that would be half-funded by grants. Hiring a part-time employee this year, and reviewing that decision next year was also discussed.

Ruberto said the city would abide by the council's decision, but suggested the council should start to think of the Office of Cultural Development "in a completely different light."

"Community Development definitely aligns with economic development," Ruberto said. "This department has done incredible things and can do much more if it frees Megan up to do other things.

"This is a real active department," he said. "It's not fluff."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6224.
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Three city department leaders leave their posts"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, June 06, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The leaders of three city departments recently left Pittsfield's employ, creating a shuffling of key personnel in City Hall.

The heads of the health, building and personnel departments have all stepped aside. Although succession plans are in place for the first two, the latter position remains unfilled.

The Board of Health has voted to recommend that the City Council appoint James Wilusz as the new health director, Chairman Philip Adamo said yesterday.

Wilusz, a Pittsfield resident employed by the Tri-Town Health Department in Lee, will replace Laura Kittross, who recently left the city to join the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association in Great Barrington.

"He's an excellent candidate," Adamo said of Wilusz, who is a registered sanitarian, holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science and has worked with the Department of Environmental Protection in his current position. The council is expected to consider Wilusz's appointment at its meeting Tuesday.

Kittross, who was hired in January 2007, was the city's first full-time health director since the current Board of Health was formed in October 2004.

Building Inspector William Thornton has decided to retire from the part-time position he has held for the past year.

He retired in March 2007 but returned a few months later on a part-time basis. Before he retired as a full-time employee, Thornton was known as an "acting" commissioner because he lived in Lenox and failed to satisfy the city's residency requirement for department heads.

According to Mayor James M. Ruberto, Thornton left a succession plan in place, hiring Gerald Garner as assistant building inspector with the idea that Garner would be promoted. Garner represented the department at Tuesday's City Council budget hearing.

"From the succession plan we've developed, it's logical to assume that I will be advancing (Garner's) name," Ruberto said yesterday.

Personnel Director David E. Battistoni, who headed the Personnel Department, has left to become the town manager in Barre.

Battistoni, who was hired to a two-year contract in February 2006, previously served as town manager in Winchester, Conn., and in Windsor, Vt., and was the president of the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce.

Although Battistoni officially left last month, the city has yet to advertise for his replacement. Ruberto said he intends to "reassess" how the position should be filled before looking for a successor. The mayor said he will consider various options as he goes through that process.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, 413) 496-6224.
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"Pittsfield needs to tighten its belt"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, June 09, 2008

The city of Pittsfield has re-evaluated all homes. The date of this assessment was Jan. 1, 2007. All homes had a significant jump in total value due to the real estate market bubble. Yes, we know the tax rate for 2008 went down from $14.45 per $1,000 to $13.15 per $1,000, but due to increases in total value of residential homes, everyone's taxes went up $400-700 per year. Over the past five years, our taxes have gone up by 20 percent, and now the city wants to increase taxes again.

We as working citizens of Pittsfield do not get a 4 percent raise every year at our jobs. Why are we allowing the city to get such a raise? I know the high schools need updating, but what about freeing up more of the "free cash" to give city residents a one year break during these hard times?

With the city and mayor stating, "everyone can afford to go the movies," we are now giving money to rebuild North Street with a movie theater. Well, I think they are out of touch, because my neighbors, friends and family cannot afford to go to the movies during such rough times. Raise taxes $8-10 a month next year, and there goes the city residents' extra cash for the movies!

The City Council, mayor and all of the city departments need to tighten their belts. Do we really need to paint white lines on side streets in Pittsfield yearly? Once again, the city received much more tax money from the residents for the last budget. Why do they need more?

Please, citizens of Pittsfield, attend the budget meetings and question your council person. We need to make sure our taxes are being budgeted correctly.

CHARLENE WEHRY
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Leaders pushing taxpayers too far"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, June 09, 2008

The citizens of Pittsfield may soon be forced to call for measures similar to those taken in the mid '80s; namely, Proposition 2 1/2. It is imperative that elected officials stay in tune with their constituents. They must constantly take the pulse of the electorate or risk their fury at the next available election. Remember the cleaning of house the voters made eight to 10 years ago?

Reading about this administration's request for another 4 1/2 percent increase and watching the council lay its stamp of approval on just about everything that comes before them in the budget hearings, causes one to believe that they think that property owners are willing to pay this increase rather than cut services. This could not be further from the truth. I suggest that they re-read their tea leaves or check the smoke signals or whatever else they do or they will soon find themselves on the wrong end of that broom.

In response to the 20 percent increase in taxes over the last five years and last year's increase in food, utilities and gasoline, many people turned to their bicycles, lowered their thermostats, added sweaters and blankets and gave up the luxury of eating out. The elderly often went cold and undernourished, electing to pay for their medicines instead. For those on a fixed income, a tax increase results in a pay cut; a cut that they can no longer absorb.

This year, heating costs are already skyrocketing even higher and the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel will push the price of many things beyond reach. The oil embargo of the late '70s produced a similar scenario that brought about Proposition 2 1 2 because they were not listening at the state level. This forced the city leaders to cut their budgets by 15 percent per year for the next three years. Was it difficult? Of course it was, but it was done and people lived with it. It helped those on fixed incomes survive.

Most voters do not attend or speak out at city council meetings for many reasons but it would be a big mistake to take this as acceptance for what is now being proposed. The people are begging for relief. I urge you to listen very carefully.

CHARLES L. SMITH
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
The writer is a former Pittsfield mayor.

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Pittsfield City Council
"'Smart Growth' will be debated"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, June 09, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council tomorrow will consider a zoning amendment that allows state municipalities to provide a mixture of commercial and residential uses in downtown and urban areas.

Chapter 40R, approved by the state's general court in 2005, encourages municipalities to amend their zoning ordinances in downtown and urban neighborhoods to allow "by right," or without special permit, a mix of uses at different densities. The measure also is designed to encourage the development of affordable housing because it requires that 20 percent of any units constructed within such a district carry that designation.

In Pittsfield, Chapter 40R would be known as the "Smart Growth Overlay District," and would consist of a "floating zoning district" for nine designated areas, Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer said.

Those areas include the Clock Tower Business Park on South Church Street, the former A.H. Rice Silk Mill on Spring Street, Mount Carmel Church on Fenn Street and St. Mary's Church on Tyler Street, Ruffer said.

Part of the Clock Tower complex is being redeveloped as condominiums.

Berkshire Silkville LLC is interested in transforming the former silk mill into an urban village of 72 residential units for artists, craftsmen and creative professionals to live and work.

"The purpose (of the ordinance) is to streamline permitting and encourage full development of new housing units in an urban center area," Ruffer said.

Some of these nine designated areas already have received special permits from the city that will be converted to "by right" uses if the ordinance is approved.

The Community Development Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council approve the adoption of the Smart Growth Overlay District.

Realtor Barbara Davis-Hassan expressed some concerns about the proposed ordinance at the Community Development Board meeting.

In a written statement, she listed several reasons why she is opposed to both the Smart Growth Overlay District and to a second state program known as the Urban Housing Initiative Tax Increment Financing zone.

"As a result of these questions and concerns, I would respectfully ask the (board) to delay any decision on a zone change and initiative of this size until an advisory board or the like be formed to analyze these two initiatives in detail," Davis-Hassan wrote.

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"No cuts to Pittsfield budget this round"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night continued to discuss whether it should add any full-time positions for the upcoming fiscal year in an uncertain economy, but failed to cut any funding from Mayor James M. Ruberto's $126.9 million fiscal 2009 budget proposal.

After reducing by half the proposed salary for an administrative assistant in the Office of Cultural Development's budget last week, the council considered cutting proposed new positions for both the maintenance department and for finance and administration during its third of five public hearings on Ruberto's spending plan.

But neither position was cut.

The council voted 8-3 against reducing $27,800 from the maintenance department, then cast a second 8-3 vote against cutting $50,000 from finance and administration.

It also gave preliminary approval to proposed budgets for the Board of Appeals, Department of Community Development, workers' compensation and unclassified expenses, which includes health insurance and overtime, a revolving account order for nine city programs, and Ruberto's request to borrow $8.2 million for a variety of capital projects.

Through three public hearings, the council has cut only $13,315 from the mayor's proposed spending plan, with all of that funding coming from the salary reduction for the Office of Cultural Development. The final two public hearings are scheduled for next week, when the budget's three biggest items — proposed spending plans for the Police, Fire and School departments — will be discussed.

Maintenance Director Ernest F. Fortini has asked the city to add an additional park maintenance position, which will increase that line item $27,777 over what it would cost to provide next year's service at this year's level. Acting Finance Director/Treasurer Susan M. Carmel has requested an additional network administrator, a $56,838 increase over level service for that line item.

Although both department heads and the city's current network administrator, Carol Nichols, said that the additional positions were necessary, Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi filed motions to cut both requests.

"I still contend that we've got to hold the line heading into questionable times," Bianchi said during the discussion over the maintenance position.

Councilor at large Matthew M. Kerwood and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio joined Bianchi in voting for cutting the maintenance positions. In the finance and administration vote, Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward joined with Maffuccio and Bianchi.

The council also discussed Ruberto's capital budget proposal in length, particularly a request to repair the roofs of both Pittsfield High School and the Police Department, each of which will cost the city $1.5 million.

Ruberto said his capital budget order contained a "handful of major items," several of which were the result of "deferred maintenance." He said that borrowing $8.2 million could leave the city as much as $425,000 per year in debt amortization over the length of the bond.

"The Pittsfield High School roof is in critical condition," he said. "With the roof at the Police Department, they have to move things around inside if it rains."

Fortini said a study on replacing Pittsfield High's roof was done in 1994 but was never acted upon because the funding dried up. He said that the current roof is 45 years old, but that a new one could last as long as 35 or 40 years. If the council OK'd the measure, he said, the city would begin construction in mid-July.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop took exception to the proposed borrowing of $50,000 for a Phase II environmental assessment at the former emergency management building on Tyler Street.

"I don't dispute the option of doing it," Lothrop said. "But I don't think it should be in the capital budget. It could be done in 18 months. I would support this being done in a line item."

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"Pittsfield Superintendent to Speak at Berkshire Chamber Breakfast"
iBerkshires.com - June 12, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce will host a Good News Business Salute on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union. The breakfast event will be held at the Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield from 7:45 – 9:00 AM. The cost to attend is $20 for Berkshire Chamber members and $28 for non-members and includes a breakfast buffet.

The Chamber will salute four local companies and organizations for their “good news:” EPOCH Assisted Living at Melbourne, Hampton Inn & Suites, Mildred Elley, and a special community recognition for the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead.

Howard Jacob Eberwein, III, Deputy Superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools will provide the keynote address to an audience of over 300 members of the Berkshire business community. Prior to his role as Superintendent, Eberwein served as Principal at Pittsfield High School from 2003 to 2007 and taught science at both Taconic High Schools and Mt. Everett Regional High School. Eberwein will share his ideas on Pittsfield public education as he looks to begin as Superintendent on July 1st.

Erin Sullivan, Director of Volunteer Services for Berkshire Health Systems, will serve as master of ceremonies. Sullivan serves on the Pittsfield School Committee and is affiliated with a variety of community organizations throughout the County.

To register for the Good News Business Salute, call (413) 499-4000 x10, email info@berkshirechamber.com, or visit www.berkshirechamber.com.

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"Pittsfield High Graduates Told to Unlock Their Power"
By Tammy Daniels -iBerkshires Staff- June 15, 2008

LENOX — You could tell the class was getting antsy for their diplomas when air mattresses and pool sharks began bopping over their heads not halfway through graduation ceremonies for Pittsfield High School on Sunday afternoon.

"What's standing between you and your diploma?" Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto queried the seniors seated before him in Tanglewood's Shed. "Me!"

So for one last time, teachers shushed their charges and, in some cases, took away the toys of the impromptu celebration until the 201 students could make it across the stage to shake the mayor's hand and walk off with that most important paper signifying they had completed their 12 years of schooling for the city of Pittsfield.

And pick up a school-approved beach ball to be blown up and tossed about when the ritual was finally over.

"It was a rush of excitement and kind of a surreal moment because I really didn't expect it to be as awesome as it was," said Devan Gardner of getting his diploma. The theater enthusiast (he received the Outstanding Drama Student medal for Proteus) plans to continue studying visual and theater arts at Berkshire Community College and beyond.

His goal — to return to Pittsfield High School to imbue that passion in the next generation, "hopefully, working at PHS as a drama teacher and taking Ralph Hammann's job."

If he does, he'll be following some of the advice that Ruberto offered the class, including to "find work that you're going to be passionate about."

It was advice his own father had given him, along with showing respect to others and making "discipline your best friend."

The mayor congratulated the class for maintaining the school's traditions, a recognition of the many previous classes — now parents of current students — sitting throughout the cavernous Shed (not a few sporting the school's purple and white colors).

It was a theme visited by both interim Principal Anne Beauregard and class speaker Daniel Tweed-Kent.

"Many of you in the audience today graduated from Pittsfield High and have love for the dome," said Tweed-Kent. "It is a place that fostered our learning in the past four years and where students and faculty unite.

"Each of you took a different path through PHS, yet together these unique experiences form the Pittsfield High community."

He recalled the experiences shared by the class of 2008, such as the mercury spill that emptied the school, banners hung from the dome and crickets loosed in the hallways. More importantly, he said, the uniqueness of each member of the class points to a wide range of different pathways, and a force to shape the future.

"As youth, we have the power to shape and to change our local and global community if we only believe our ourselves, our differences, and we stand united," Tweed-Kent said. "The past four years have only begun to tap the vast depth in our wells of potential ... You alone have the power to unlock this potential."

Beauregard said the school had weathered a tough year but the dedication of the staff and the commitment of the students had changed its climate.

"We have always taken pride in our diversity and, although it presents many challenges, it is what makes the PHS community so vibrant."

The school, with its landmark dome rising above East Street, has a solid foundation, both structurally and academically, she said. Its architectural details — its arts and humanities — are what make it unique and what teaches its occupants to appreciate diversity and how the world works.

"Whether we use the written word, the canvas, or the stage, these are the beautiful details that make our high school so special," said Beauregard. "It is much more than just bricks and mortar ... it is the heart of the city and the hope for our future."

Vice Principal Frank K. Cote quoted Jerry Garcia to describe the past four years — "what a long strange trip it's been" — to roars from the graduates and faculty. He named the high honor and honor students; special awards were presented by Superintendent of Schools Katherine Darlington.

Senior chorus sang the high school's alma mater and "For Good" from Broadway's "Wicked." Graduates also joined the band for a final performance of "Allegiance."

After the last student crossed the stage, the graduates stood to switch their tassels and to toss of beach balls of all sizes (and few pools sharks and dolphins) into the air.

The best part of being at Pittsfield High was "just being with my friends and seeing them and everybody ever day," said Katie Doucette. She'll be leaving all that behind in the fall when she heads to Salem State College to decide what her future will look like.

She'll miss her friends but getting the diploma felt pretty good. "It's finally over. It's time to move on to the next chapter," she said.

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"PHS buzzes with joy at The Shed"
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, June 16, 2008

LENOX — Decked-out graduation cap. Check. Excited smile. Check. Hidden hand buzzer ready to shock the mayor when receiving his diploma. Check.

If the Pittsfield High School graduation under The Shed at Tanglewood yesterday was a party, William Bradford dressed to be one of its more memorable guests.

"I've got a buzzer here, and I'm going to wait until the principal gives me the diploma to use it," said Bradford before the afternoon ceremony, sporting his "Free at last" mortarboard message, unaware that Mayor James M. Ruberto — not interim Principal Anne Beauregard — would be handing out diplomas. "I'm just excited that today is here. But it seems like it went too fast."

Under the shade of The Shed, graduates, family and friends gathered to embrace the moment that stood as a culmination of memories.

In his address to the Class of 2008, senior class President Daniel Tweed-Kent told the group of 200 graduates to be proud of their individuality.

"I think we all know we have a class that cannot quite be summed up in words," he said. "We are a carefree, spirited class that is intent on living life to the fullest for the rest of our lives.

"Never will the administration have to worry about us scaling the dome to hang a banner. Or swimming in the lake during senior banquet in just our boxers. But they will miss our spirit."

Throughout the ceremony, graduates epitomized — and guests acknowledged — the spirit of the class. Beauregard told the audience that it was a trying year in the halls of PHS, but overcoming adversity gave graduation festivities an added sweetness.

"We have always celebrated our diversity," she said. "And though it presents many challenges, it is what makes the PHS community so vibrant."

"Take the spirit of the dome with you, and remember to leave the world a little better than you found it."

When Kendra Knisley heads for Elmira College to study history, the honors graduate will carry with her a trunk full of memories. But yesterday before the ceremony, she tried to get a handle on the present.

"I woke up this morning and thought, by tonight, I won't be in high school anymore," she said. "(Graduating) was the most important thing for so long, and now it's here. And it's over."

But it wasn't over until Bradford and 199 others greeted the mayor, newly earned diploma in hand.

In a line of graduates processing across the stage, Bradford reached for Ruberto's hand. Both shared a smile and a laugh in the formation of one last high school memory, sure to last for years to come.
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To reach Amy Carr: acarr@berkshireeagle.com, 413) 496-6233.
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"City narrows airport vision"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Faced with a finite amount of funding for airports across the country and with rising construction costs, the Federal Aviation Administration has narrowed the immediate scope of work at Pittsfield Municipal Airport to its runway and safety areas, according to airport Manager Mark Germanowski.

The work is estimated to cost $22 million, according to a state Executive Office of Transportation spokesman. Last spring, the price tag for the entire project — which included upgrades above and beyond the runway and safety areas — was $40 million.

The FAA put the remaining items for the expansion project on a priority list, Germanowski said.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, has secured an additional $2.5 million bond authorization for the project, which he said will allow the work in those two areas to go forward.

Speranzo said the additional funding, contained in the House's transportation bond bill, will provide a financial cushion for when the project goes out to bid. The bill now is being considered by the Senate.

"When you look at the scope of the project, the costs have increased," Speranzo said. "This is money that will help them do what they need to do to expand the runway."

The airport expansion project has been under discussion since 1998. But inflation in construction costs, fuel and land prices drove the entire project's cost from $25 million in June 2005 to an estimated $40 million in April 2007.

The FAA has contributed $10 million for the project. And the $2.5 million secured by Speranzo will be added to the $11 million in bonded state transportation funding that former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. previously secured for the project, Germanowski said.

With federal funding tight, he said that the FAA has decided to concentrate its efforts solely on improving airport safety areas, which are required to be approved by 2015.

Adam Hurtibise, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Transportation, said the FAA, Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission and airport staff are expected to meet this week to determine the best plan, given the new parameters, for the Pittsfield project.

Expansion of the runway and safety areas are currently in the final planning stages. Construction could start as soon as the 2009 construction season, Germanowski said.

Plans call for a 950-foot extension of the airport's 5,000-foot main runway and the installation of a new runway lighting system. Under FAA safety regulations, there must be a minimum of 1,000 feet of safety area at each end of the runway. Pittsfield's Runway 26 has less than 200 feet of safety area at each end.

Besides the inadequate safety areas, the runway length and lighting system are not sufficient for larger commercial aircraft that use the airport. Aircraft are sometimes diverted to other airports when the tarmac is wet or icy.

"Investments in projects such as the Pittsfield Airport have a significant impact not only on their home cities, but cause a ripple effect in the smaller towns that surround them," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, in a written statement. Pignatelli's district includes the airport.

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Google News Alert for: nuciforo
"City narrows airport vision", Berkshire Eagle, MA - 6/17/2008

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. previously secured for the project, Germanowski said. With federal funding tight, he said that the FAA has decided to concentrate its ...

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"Pittsfield police, fire funding approved"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night gave preliminary approval to the Police and Fire department spending plans and to a $1.5 million free cash order, during the fourth of its five public hearings on Mayor James M. Ruberto's $126.9 million fiscal 2009 budget proposal.

The public hearing process concludes tonight when the council considers the $49.5 million school budget, the biggest expenditure in the proposed spending plan. The council is expected to consider final approval of the budget on June 24 during its next regularly scheduled meeting.

Besides the police and fire budgets, the council also approved spending plans for the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, the Health Department and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Only nine of the council's 11 members were present — Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony V. Maffuccio were not in attendance — and no motions were made to cut funding from any of the proposed spending plans.

The council did suggest to Ruberto that he add $500,000 in certified free cash to his proposed $1.5 million allocation. The mayor has requested the $1.5 million to reduce the fiscal 2009 property tax rate. As things stand now, even with that allocation, the property tax rate will increase by 4.1 percent when it is set in December. An additional $500,000 from the free cash account would lower that increase by an additional 1 percent.

Ward 3 Councilor Linda M. Tyer asked Ruberto to consider the additional $500,000 allocation, a proposal that was backed by Ward 6 Councilor Michael L. Ward, Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop and Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi. The council cannot add any additional funding to any of the mayor's budget proposals; it can only reduce them.

In response, Ruberto said he was not in favor of adding more free cash to his budget order now, but he did not rule out considering that option in December.

"If we reach December, and if we see our revenues are exceeding our projections and our expenses are operating at a very favorable rate that can be sustained, we can look to see if the tax rate can be adjusted," the mayor said. "But to stand here tonight and talk about reducing the free cash account by another $500,000 is something that is not advisable at this time.

"It's a long way from here to December. A lot of things are going to happen."

The council voted 7-2 in favor of the $1.5 million free cash order, with Ward 1 Councilor Lewis C. Markham Jr. and Bianchi opposed.

The council gave unanimous preliminary approval to the Police and Fire department budgets, which at $7.5 million and $6.1 million, respectively, are the third and fourth largest expenditures in the city budget proposal.

During the discussion on the Police Department budget, the council queried Captain in charge Michael Wynn about a $40,000 increase in the drug enforcement line item and a $96,000 rise in the scheduled overtime account.

Wynn said that the overtime account "always runs at a deficit" but that this year a suggestion was made to provide a more accurate figure. He said the command staff has a new tracking system that will make it easier to see what actually is being spent.

"We hope to roll that out at the beginning of the fiscal year," he said.

He noted that when he took charge of the department in January, the drug enforcement unit already had expended its budget. He said an officer in charge of that unit had requested an additional $50,000, which was broken down into several smaller allocations for various services that aid drug enforcement operations.

The Police Department budget contains a request for two additional patrol officers, increasing that number to 65 positions. Wynn said the department currently has 89 "sworn personnel" on duty, with one vacancy. Three prospective officers may be sent to the police academy in Lowell in the fall, he said.

Acting Fire Chief James Sullivan said his department is at "full strength" with 88 uniformed personnel, although three retirements are expected between July and October.

He said $400,000 listed in the overtime account includes $200,000 that was transferred from the firefighters' line item. The amount budgeted for overtime is "an accurate reflection of what it will be."

"We will try and make it work and stay within the budget," Sullivan said.

The Fire Department currently has 20 officers assigned to four groups and needs at least 18 on each shift to keep all five city fire stations open. When fewer than 18 firefighters are on duty at the same time, "I have to call people in," Sullivan said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Comeback for new Pittsfield principal"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

PITTSFIELD — From laid-off teacher to principal in the same school system — it doesn't occur very often, if at all.

But it has happened to Carl Ameen.

In the spring of 2002, Ameen was one of 87 full-time teachers with less than four years of employment in the Pittsfield School System who were either laid off or terminated.

But Ameen received a recall notice — notifying nontenured teachers by the spring of their employment status for the following year is a contractual agreement — and he recently was named the new principal of Allendale Elementary School.

"Not a bad comeback, that's for sure," the 30-year-old Ameen said.

The School Department has now filled all of its vacant principal positions for the 2008-09 academic year.

Ameen officially will replace Morgan Williams, who left to become the principal at Reid Middle School, on Aug. 1.

Pittsfield roots

A Brockton native with Pittsfield roots — his grandparents lived in the city, and his mother attended Pittsfield High School — Ameen has taught at Conte Community School in various capacities since he was hired by the city's public schools in 2001.

He currently is in his first year as Conte's "math coach," supplying support to students in the first through fifth grades.

His teaching career also began in a roundabout way. After graduating from Brockton High School, he attended New England School of Broadcasting in Bangor, Maine. But after his grandfather died, his grandmother contracted Alzheimer's disease, and his family moved from Brockton to Pittsfield to be closer to her. Ameen said he then left broadcasting school to enroll at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.

"I was kind of disenchanted with broadcasting," Ameen said.

'Keep it going'

He said he became interested in teaching while at MCLA, where he received two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree in education.

"It's always good working with children," he said.

While teaching at Conte, Ameen enrolled in the School Department's leadership licensure program, which prepares teachers for administrative positions.

"I fell in love with that," he said.

When Williams was appointed Reid's new principal in May, Ameen applied for the opening at Allendale.

"I saw the opening and put my résumé in. I thought I'd give it a shot," Ameen said. "It worked out for the best."

Under Williams' tenure, Allendale received statewide recognition from the Department of Education last fall for improving its fifth-grade MCAS math test scores by 40 percentage points.

"I'd like to keep it going, improve on it and get it to the next level," Ameen said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"New business, not new taxes"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Eagle's June 12 article "Pittsfield home inspections due" did not include the fact, as did the June 3 article on the inspections, that Pittsfield homeowners are under no obligation to allow anyone into the privacy of their homes to "inspect." I got a phrase for you, "Just say no!"

I understand the spin that Board of Assessors Chairman Marsele was putting on this when he suggested that allowing a stranger to enter your home in order to "verify" your home's value might actually result in a decrease in taxes. I do not believe homeowners are that naive. This is another excuse our elected officials are using to squeeze more taxes out of homeowners instead of doing more to attract businesses to Pittsfield. Does the City Council really believe that by spending thousands of our tax dollars to find another excuse to raise our taxes yet again will actually entice people and businesses to come to our city?

The City Council and mayor should be doing everything they can to invite new business to set up shop here in Pittsfield. They can make it happen if they put half as much effort into recruiting companies as they put into these schemes to raise our taxes.

KEVIN CONNOR
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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Pittsfield Public Schools
"Giving dropouts reason to drop in: Local forum examines recent research"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, June 20, 2008

PITTSFIELD — It may be the end of the school year, but for Pittsfield Public Schools, it's when officials begin tackling the ever-imminent threat of school dropouts.

The district, under the federally funded Safe Schools Healthy Students initiative, held an initial forum in February called "School Dropout: A Community Approach."

"Having a forum and walking away is the same as doing nothing," said Deputy Superintendent Howard J. "Jake" Eberwein III at the start of a follow-up forum yesterday. About 50 school administrators, educators, staff, and community and civic leaders were in attendance.

So far, the movement has been successful. Yesterday morning the group heard five-minute presentations from committees focused on graduation requirements, alternative pathways, identifying risk factors, early intervention/family support, mentoring and community alignment.

The graduation requirement committee said it will be proposing a reduction of the current 260-credit requirement that was adopted nine years ago, when officials assumed that the high school schedule was changing to an eight-period day.

"This has been a huge roadblock for our students," said committee member and guidance counselor Ann Marie Mutz.

Today's schedule is only seven periods long. A 244-credit requirement is being suggested, which would include four years of physical education and human development classes, along with core academics and a greater range of electives.

In tandem, the alternative pathways task force is looking for a better means to create alternative education plans for students and to expand existing programs.

Options being explored include adding career counseling through Berkshire Works, incorporating a delayed start to the school day or twilight school, and developing a better tracking system for at-risk students going from middle to high school.

School adjustment counselor Ann Marie Carpenter said the risk factors task group has started a "major research project" to look at national data and compare it with Pittsfield statistics to examine what put a student at risk of dropping out.

Data includes looking at more than 10 areas, including standardized test reports, attendance rates and social connections with teachers and peers.

The group found that Grades 6 and 9 are risky years because of the transition between schools. "We found that, for kids who lose ground in those years, it's really hard to make it up," said school psychologist Mary Jean O'Reilly.

The work of the group is not easy, Eberwein said. He cited a recent memo from a state urban superintendents' network that found that, of the 24 urban school districts, only 33 percent are on track in Grade 9 to graduate. Of the 6,220 "high risk" students identified in the state, 75 percent have low-income backgrounds.

School psychologist Irene Zielinski, a member of the early intervention/family support task force, noted that the socioeconomic factors mean that the dropout problem cannot be addressed at only the school level.

"The expectation is that families need to be fully engaged in their children's education," she said.

Zielinski said the schools serve a significant transient population of students and that "the academic consequences can be severe for students who move from school to school."

Besides feeling isolated or disoriented, she said, it could take a student an average of four to six months to adjust to a new school.

To counter the risk factors, the dropout collaborative has assigned a group to look at mentoring programs.

Task force leader Howard J. Eberwein Jr., father of the deputy superintendent, said that, by September, the mentoring committee plans to make recommendations on how to start mentoring programs within the school system.

In addition, Jim Ciullo, youth coordinator to the Berkshire Regional Employment Board, said he was working to facilitate a program called Career Coaching, meant to connect students who already have dropped out of school with mentors from the professional field.

And officials said they want to make sure that students in need of support have access to community agencies.

"Dropout doesn't just affect the schools. It really is a community issue," Deputy Superintendent Eberwein said.

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"Smaller cities in dire need of infrastructure help as well"
Editorial, Monday, June 23, 2008

When a delegation of the nation's big-city mayors went before Congress last week to ask for help in dealing with their infrastructure needs, they were speaking for little-city mayors like Pittsfield's Jim Ruberto and North Adams' John Barrett III, as well as a few Selectmen, too.

Their needs may vary in size and scope but are essentially the same. While there is plenty of blame to go around for the state of the nation's aging, crumbling infrastructure, a federal government that has lavished money on airlines while shortchanging our highway system and all but ignoring rail bears the lion's share of the responsibility.

"We're having a quiet collapse of prosperity," said Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Mark Funkhouser, whose city has $6 billion in backlogged road and highway repairs.

The Senate Banking Committee learned from the American Society of Engineers that it would take $1.6 trillion to bring the nation's transportation and resources network up to where it should be, and the debt-ridden nation doesn't have that kind of money.

The state doesn't, either, as it took more than a decade of lobbying for Mayor Barrett to generate funding for the reconstruction of the Hadley Overpass, which was included in a recent bond bill.

Governor Deval Patrick, who helped assure the overpass received funds, is attempting to address the state's long-neglected infrastructure. That won't be easy to do in tough economic times, and if the state's income tax is repealed, as demanded by a shortsighted November ballot question, it would be impossible.

One reason the state is in the fix it is in is because the need to repair and upgrade infrastructure has rarely been considered in funding new projects, and in the future, the governor and Legislature should include those anticipated costs before approving any project.

At last Thursday's Washington hearing, Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, discussed their plan to create a National Infrastructure Bank that would raise money for infrastructure projects by issuing tax credit bonds that could be leveraged into greater funding.

That's a promising idea, but no plan that fails to include more funding for railroads, which are needed now more than ever with gasoline at $4 a gallon, is deserving of passage.

— Berkshire Eagle
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"Resolution recognizes Pittsfield's first mention of baseball: Congress makes it official"
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The city's status as a pivotal component in the history of baseball was recognized by Congress yesterday, as the House passed a resolution recognizing the city as being home to the earliest known reference to the term "base ball" in the United States as well as being the national birthplace of college baseball.

U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, was one of 26 original co-sponsors, including the other nine members of the Massachusetts delegation and several graduates of Williams and Amherst colleges. The two schools played the first college baseball game in the country in Pittsfield in 1859. Amherst won, 73-32, in 26 innings.

In 1791, the town of Pittsfield passed a bylaw during a town meeting that prohibited playing baseball within 80 yards of the town's new meetinghouse "for the preservation of the windows."

The meetinghouse building, at 27 East St., was designed by architect Charles Bullfinch in 1789 and completed in 1793. It currently serves as a Congregational church.

In 2004, noted historian John Thorn discovered the minutes of that 1791 meeting in the city's archives.

"Towns and communities have competed over the years to establish claims to various milestones in the early days of the game," said Olver yesterday. "This resolution cements Pittsfield's place in baseball's time line.

"Baseball has been a part of Pittsfield's history since the very beginning. Less than 40 years after Pittsfield was settled, the town passed the baseball bylaw."

The city of Pittsfield was settled in 1752 and incorporated in 1761.

"Pittsfield," said Olver, "plays a very important role in American history as an early home of our nation's pastime."

"Today is a great day for the city of Pittsfield," Mayor James M. Ruberto said in a statement. "Through the hard work of Congressman Olver, the city has been recognized for its rich baseball heritage, proud to be known as baseball's 'Garden of Eden' and proud to be acknowledged as the birthplace of collegiate baseball."

City resident Philip Massery, who, along with fellow baseball enthusiast Brian Johnson were two constituents of Olver's, supported the idea enthusiastically.

The two men are seeking to raise money for a memorial to baseball's early roots. Massery explained that the hope is that the congressional decree will help lure sponsors to the city to build the memorial.

Although a site for the memorial has not yet been identified, Massery said yesterday that he and Johnson believe that the ballfield in 1791 was somewhere in front of the present courthouse.

Massery last night emphasized that he and Johnson are not advocating that Pittsfield was the birthplace of baseball.

"We're not proclaiming that baseball was invented here," he said. "But Congress has now made it official: This is where the earliest mention of baseball appears on the record. And Pittsfield is certainly the birthplace of college baseball. That is indisputable."

This is also no slap at Cooperstown, N.Y., said Massery. Cooperstown is the site of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"We are not competing with Cooperstown," he said. "But if Cooperstown is the Bible, then Pittsfield is Genesis."

In his remarks to Congress yesterday in support of the bill, Olver recounted the history of the discovery of the 1791 documents and joked that, "Even in 1791, youths were already breaking windows playing America's favorite pastime."

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"Pittsfield council OKs budget: The $126.8 million spending plan is $13,315 less than the mayor's initial proposal."
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council last night gave unanimous final approval to the $126.8 million fiscal 2009 city budget, which is $13,315 less than the proposal Mayor James M. Ruberto submitted May 29.

The reduction occurred when the council cut in half the salary for an administrative assistant's position in the Office of Cultural Development's budget during the second of five public hearings on Ruberto's proposed spending plan. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

There was no discussion last night before the 10 councilors in attendance voted on the budget. Ward 3 Councilor Linda M. Tyer did not attend the meeting.

The council also gave unanimous final approval to the $8.2 million fiscal 2009 capital budget, which will allow the city to borrow that sum for a variety of projects. A series of revolving accounts also was given final approval by a unanimous vote.

The council voted 8-2 in favor of a $1.5 million appropriation from the free cash account to reduce the fiscal 2009 tax rate, which will not be set until tax classification hearings take place in December. Ward 1 Councilor Lewis C. Markham Jr. and Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi were opposed. Both councilors also voted to oppose the $1.5 million allocation when it was discussed at a public hearing on June 17.

Last night's debate over the free cash order mirrored the discussion that took place during last week's public hearing when several councilors suggested that Ruberto increase the $1.5 million allocation by $500,000. As things stand now, even with that allocation, the property tax rate will increase by 4.1 percent when it is set in December. An additional $500,000 from the free cash account would lower that increase an additional 1 percent. The $1.5 million allocation will be obtained from the fiscal 2009 free cash account, which will not be certified until later this year.

At the public hearing, Ruberto said he was not in favor of an additional appropriation to his free cash order but would rather consider the matter in December.

The council cannot add any additional funding to any of the mayor's suggested appropriations; it can only reduce them. Taking that factor into account, Bianchi said the only way to ensure that Ruberto would add an additional $500,000 to the free cash order in six months would be to reject the $1.5 million allocation now.

"I know the mayor has said that a lot can happen between now and December, but it will be here in a blink," Bianchi said.

Markham said that the $1.5 million allocation certainly would help the city's taxpayers, but that he would not support the request because it does not contain "any wiggle room" for a larger request in the future.

Councilor at large Matthew M. Kerwood said that, in the past, the council has approved proposed free cash allocations in June, then voted to rescind the original order.

"I am of the opinion that we should support the $1.5 million allocation at this point," Kerwood said. "I hope and ask as we travel down the road between now and December that we can up that amount to $2 million."

In response, Bianchi said the council has rescinded orders in the past but only after action was put forward by the mayor.

"This is the only action that is available to us right now," he said, in asking the council to reject the $1.5 million allocation.

In other business last night, the council voted unanimously to approve an order that authorizes the city to enter into an agreement with Pittsfield resident Thomas Pecoraro to plant a community garden on a vacant city lot at 152 Robbins Ave.

Bianchi said the proposal had been discussed at a meeting of the Westside Neighborhood Initiative and thanked the council's willingness for addressing the issue in a "speedy manner."

The council's approval is for just one year, he said.

"Hopefully, we can talk about more than just crops (on that parcel) in the future," Bianchi said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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"Pittsfield zoning hearing turns heated"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, June 26, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The proposed Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District economic incentive program caused tension at Tuesday night's City Council meeting after Council President Gerald M. Lee would not allow an opponent of the measure to speak during a public hearing.

After reopening the public hearing on the Smart Growth program that had been continued from the council's last meeting on June 10, Lee said he would allow only the people who had not spoken two weeks ago to comment.

He added, however, that the council planned to continue the public hearing until July 8 and that everyone who wanted to speak — including those who had spoken two weeks ago — would be allowed to comment then.

When attorney Alan Righi of Commonwealth Avenue, who had spoken two weeks ago, asked to speak, Lee, citing his previous remarks, said no. Righi, who opposes the economic incentive program, said that he wanted to address "a broader topic," adding that he did not understand why, given some of the aspects of the proposed ordinance, that voices should be "silenced."

Righi, who also had spoken during the public comment period Tuesday night, then asked city attorney Richard M. Dohoney for a ruling on the public meeting law.

Dohoney said that, as president of the council, it was within Lee's "discretion" to set limits on the speaking terms.

Guy Noto of Deming Street, another opponent of the proposal, later criticized Lee for being "heavy-handed" in dealing with the Righi situation. Noto, who had filed a petition with the council asking that the Smart Growth proposal be placed as a binding referendum on the ballot for the November elections, later got into an exchange with Ward 1 Councilor Lewis C. Markham Jr., whom he accused of laughing at him while he spoke.

"You can laugh all you want, Mr. Markham," Noto said.

After Markham responded to Noto's comment, Lee verbally intervened, and the sniping stopped.

Before reopening the public hearing, Lee said the council could not approve the Smart Growth proposal now because the city's application has yet to be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. The state agency has until June 30 to sign off on the city's application, according to Department of Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer. The council's next meeting is on July 8.

Several people spoke in favor of the Smart Growth ordinance during the public hearing. Nathaniel W. Karns, the executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, said the proposed ordinance would create the kind of affordable housing that Pittsfield currently lacks to attract young professionals.

"Housing for the work force is a significant issue not only for Pittsfield but for the entire region," Karns said. "I've heard it from recruiters that it's a prime impediment for them recruiting people for the job market."

Frank Scharfenorth, who moved from Germany to Pittsfield six years ago, said he is considering moving his business here but will not if there is not enough housing for his employees.

"I don't understand why there is such a concern from people about affordable housing," he said.

In a letter read by a staff member from the Department of Community Development, Brad Gordon, executive director and staff attorney for the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, cited local housing statistics to "support my contention that there is a near emergency need for both the development of new rental housing as well as the rehabilitation of existing rental housing."

The council referred Noto's petition back to the petitioner after City Clerk Jody L. Phillips said it would require approval of a special act by the state Legislature to place the binding referendum on the ballot. Mayor James M. Ruberto would be required to bring that measure before the council for approval, Lee said.

Because the Legislature's final meeting of the current fiscal year is Monday, Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop said the earliest that Noto's petition could be placed on the ballot is the fall of 2009.

The Smart Growth ordinance also received a verbal workout during the public comment period, as 11 of the 14 people who spoke made remarks about the proposal.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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www.pittsfielddukes.com
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"Pittsfield favors four city parks"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, June 30, 2008

There are to be park staffers at Deming, Clapp, Pitt and the Common Parks for the kids in those areas for the summer months. It seemed strange, or maybe not so strange, to me that all of the parks listed are in the south and west areas of Pittsfield. Are the kids at Deming more important than the kids at Wilson Park, or the kids at Pitt more than the kids at Highland Park?

It seems to me that kids in all of the areas of the city need something to occupy them during summer, not just the ones in the south and west ends. Most of the Bossidy money has been spent, with most of it being used in the southeast and west parts of the city. While some has been spent at the Doyle complex on the baseball field (a disastrous job) and the softball fields (looks good so far), nothing has been spent on parks in the north end (Wahconah Park is in the downtown according to our "honorable" mayor).

While one member of the Park Commission, Mr. Garivaltis, has the interests of all of the people of Pittsfield in mind, it seems that the other three members have only the agenda which is put forth by the Ruberto and Ruffer team in mind. I hope that when we get a new administration in office this will change for the betterment of all of the people in the city.

JIM GLEASON
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
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The Berkshire Eagle Online: CORRECTION

The state Ethics Commission issued a public education letter to Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto in response to his hosting a press con-ference to endorse a candidate at City Hall and a political rally at Pittsfield High School. The information was incorrect in an article in Wednesday's Eagle.

Source: "Feelings mixed on ethics flap", By By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, (Wednesday, July 02, 2008).

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"Former Red Sox GM, Pittsfield mayor face ethics charge over Series tickets"
June 30, 2008, 12:48 PM, By James Vaznis, (Boston) Globe Staff

Former Sox general manager Daniel Duquette was raked over the coals by Red Sox fans for failing to get the team to the World Series. Now he is embroiled in a state ethics controversy for allegedly selling Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto two face-value tickets to the 2004 World Series at a time when seats were fetching as much as $2,000 apiece.

Duquette told investigators that he sold Ruberto the two tickets for $190 each because he wanted his minor league team, the Berkshire Dukes, to play at a city park, according to a statement made public today by the State Ethics Commission.

The commission alleges that the transaction violated the state’s conflict of interest law because face-value tickets were not available at the time to the general public. Tickets were selling on the Internet for $600 to $2,000 per ticket, according to the statement from the ethics commission's enforcement division.

“By selling the World Series tickets to Ruberto at face value, where the general public could only obtain such tickets at prices more than $50 over face value, Duquette provided something of substantial value to Ruberto for or because of official acts to be performed by Ruberto as mayor,” the statement says.

Public hearings on the issue will be scheduled within 90 days. The hearing process will work similar to judicial proceedings, in which each side will exchange evidence and witness lists in advance of the hearings.

The mayor’s attorney, Leonard H. Cohen, said in a statement that the purchase of the World Series tickets did not influence the mayor's dealings with the minor league team. Cohen said he drove a hard bargain to allow the Dukes to play at Wahconah Park because it resulted in substantial economic benefits to the city.

“He purchased two tickets at face value ($190/ea) to the second game of the 2004 Red Sox World Series for one reason and one reason only,” Cohen said. “He, like countless other Red Sox fans in New England and elsewhere, at last had hopes that his beloved team would win the World Series in his lifetime.”

Cohen added: “Jimmy Ruberto, dedicated public servant and long suffering Red Sox fan, purchased two tickets to see his team and there is simply no impropriety in that.”

Duquette said in an e-mail that Ruberto has been a friend of the Duquette family for many years, but to avoid any perception of potentially violating the state’s ethics law governing gifts, he decided to sell the tickets to him at face value.

“I believed then and I believe now that by not gifting the Mayor a ticket and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball (MLB), I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation, or ethical norm,” Duquette said. “Furthermore, there was never any intent, offer, discussion, act or acts, official or unofficial, discussed, implied, mentioned, or required by Jim Ruberto on behalf of my family or any of the businesses in which I am involved in connection with the purchase of this ticket at face value.”

Duquette also said he believed the ethics commission was out of line to note that tickets were selling for much more on the Internet, when Major League Baseball rules forbids officials to sell tickets for greater than face value.

“As far as I am concerned, the tickets in question, secured from MLB which I made available to family and friends, could only be resold under MLB rules for face value,” Duquette said, later adding, “To suggest that a ticket becomes a gift to a public official because its sale price was based on a MLB directive (and state anti-scalping law) rather than on anecdotal evidence about its potential value on EBAY and Craig's List seems to me, to stretch Law 268 well beyond its intended reach.”

Duquette noted that ultimately the Dukes and the city hammered out a great deal for its residents. The team pays a per-game fee of $300 and an annual payment of $10,000, more than any other team paid for a home facility last year, he said.

“If this were more widely known, I believe it would reassure citizens of Pittsfield and Massachusetts state officials that the mayor represented their interests exceedingly well in this transaction,” Duquette said, “and there was nothing improper about its execution for either the landlord or the tenant.”

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"Pittsfield mayor faces World Series ethics charge"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer
Monday, June 30, 2008

BOSTON (AP) - The State Ethics Commission is alleging Pittsfield's mayor violated a conflict of interest law when he agreed to buy at face value two World Series tickets from former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette.

The commission alleges that Duquette offered to sell Mayor James Ruberto two tickets to Game 2 of the 2004 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

At the time, Duquette, owner of the Berkshire Dukes Baseball Team, was negotiating with Ruberto to allow the team to play at Pittsfield's Wahconah Park.

The commission says Roberto agreed to pay $190 per ticket at a time when tickets were selling on the Internet at $600 to $2,000 per ticket.

A spokesman for Ruberto did not immediately offer a comment. A call and e-mail to Duquette were not immediately returned.

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"Pittsfield mayor faces 2004 World Series ethics charge"
By Associated Press, Monday, June 30, 2008 -

Pittsfield’s mayor violated a conflict of interest law when he agreed to buy at face value two 2004 World Series tickets from former Red Sox [team stats] General Manager Dan Duquette, the State Ethics Commission said today.

Duquette offered to sell Mayor James Ruberto two tickets to Game 2 of the 2004 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, while Duquette, owner of the Berkshire Dukes Baseball Team, was negotiating with Ruberto to allow the team to play at Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park.

The commission says Roberto agreed to pay $190 per ticket at a time when tickets were selling on Internet sites like eBay and Craigslist from $600 to $2,000 per ticket.

Duquette and a lawyer for Ruberto denied any wrongdoing.

According to the commission, Duquette made the offer in an October 22, 2004 phone call to Ruberto. The call came just a week after Duquette e-mailed Ruberto thanking him for his interest in the possibility of relocating the team to Pittsfield.

"I am looking forward to speaking with you in depth about this when you are in a position to proceed," Duquette said in the e-mail.

Ruberto accepted Duquette’s offer, according to the commission, and Duquette and Ruberto met on the evening of the game. Duquette gave Ruberto the two tickets. Ruberto gave Duquette a check for $380, which Duquette deposited.

Less than a month later, Duquette sent the mayor of the of the western Massachusetts city another e-mail including proposed dates for home games for the Dukes for the summer 2005 season, and said he would be in town to discuss the deal with Ruberto if he wanted to follow up.

From November 2004 to April 2005, Duquette and Ruberto negotiated licensing and concession agreements. The deals were finalized in April, 2005.

According to the commission, when asked if he intended to link his providing the opportunity to buy tickets at face value to any specific acts, "Duquette stated yes, to the acts that Ruberto would take as mayor regarding the licensing and concession agreements."

The state’s conflict of interest law bars a municipal employee from using his official position to obtain for himself "unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value" — like World Series tickets at face value.

Leonard Cohen, a lawyer for Ruberto, said the mayor did nothing wrong and purchased the tickets only because he wanted to see the Red Sox win.

"Mayor Ruberto vigorously represented the interests of the City of Pittsfield," Cohen said. "He drove a hard bargain with the Pittsfield Dukes prior to his purchasing the World Series tickets. He drove an even harder bargain after he attended the game."

Duquette also said he did nothing wrong.

Duquette said Ruberto has been a friend of his family even before he won elected office. When a family member couldn’t make it to Game 2, Duquette said he offered to sell the tickets to Ruberto as a friend.

Rather than give the tickets to Ruberto, Duquette said he offered to sell them at face value to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"I believed then and I believe now that by not gifting the mayor a ticket and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball ... I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation, or ethical norm," Duquette said in an e-mailed statement, adding there was never any "intent, offer, discussion, act or acts" discussed with Ruberto.

Duquette said he also was following major league baseball’s own guidelines which warn club officials against selling tickets for anything other than face value, even thought he’s no longer a club official.

Duquette said the final agreement he signed with Ruberto — a per-game fee of $300 and an annual payment of $10,000 — was higher than similar teams.

The two face penalties of up to $2,000 per violation. A hearing will be scheduled within 90 days.

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Related Articles
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"Mayor broke ethics rules for World Series tix"
By Associated Press, Tuesday, July 1, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Coverage

BOSTON - Pittsfield’s mayor violated a conflict of interest law when he agreed to buy at face value two 2004 World Series tickets from former Red Sox [team stats] General Manager Dan Duquette, the State Ethics Commission said yesterday.

Duquette offered to sell Mayor James Ruberto two tickets to Game 2 of the 2004 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, while Duquette, owner of the Berkshire Dukes Baseball Team, was negotiating to play at Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park. The commission says Roberto agreed to pay $190 per ticket at a time when tickets were selling online for $600 to $2,000.

State law bars a municipal employee from using his position for “unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value.”

Ruberto’s lawyer said he did nothing wrong and bought the tickets because he wanted to see the Red Sox win. Duquette said in a statement, “I believed then and I believe now that by not gifting the mayor a ticket and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball . . . I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation or ethical norm.” He said there was no “intent, offer, discussion, act or acts” discussed with Ruberto. The two face penalties of up to $2,000 per violation. A hearing has not been scheduled.
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More on: State Ethics Commission + World Series + Dan Duquette
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"Pittsfield mayor accused of Sox misstep: The State Ethics Commission has said it was wrong to buy World Series tickets from the Pittsfield Dukes' owner while the Dukes were dealing to play at Wahconah Park."
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, July 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto violated state ethics laws by accepting an offer to buy a pair of 2004 World Series tickets from former Red Sox Manager Daniel Duquette, according to the State Ethics Commission.

Duquette was then negotiating with the city to allow his minor league baseball team, the Pittsfield Dukes, to play at Pittsfield's Wahconah Park.

In a separate matter, the mayor was reprimanded for using city facilities and city employees to orchestrate campaign events in the fall of 2006.

According to the Ethics Commission, Ruberto accepted two tickets — at $190 each, well below the price most Red Sox fans were paying at the time — to Game Two of the 2004 World Series, between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

In each case, Ruberto, faces possible civil fines of up to $2,000; a public hearing on the ticket purchase will take place in Boston within the next 90 days, said David Giannotti, a spokesman for the state agency.

Both Duquette and Ruberto — who spoke through his attorney, Leonard H. Cohen, of Pittsfield — have denied any wrongdoing.

"I believed then, and I believe now, that by not gifting the mayor a ticket, and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball ... I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation or ethical norm," Duquette said in an e-mailed statement, stressing that he sold the tickets at their "face value."

Cohen said Ruberto purchased the tickets "for one reason, and for one reason only: He, like countless other Red Sox fans in New England and elsewhere, at last had hopes that his beloved team would win the World Series in his lifetime."

Cohen said Ruberto has "vigorously represented the interests of the City of Pittsfield."

The mayor drove a hard bargain with the Pittsfield Dukes prior to buying the tickets, said Cohen, and "he drove an even harder bargain after he attended the game."

Ruberto's "hard work, dedication and selflessness with respect to the negotiations involving the Pittsfield Dukes at Wahconah Park resulted in substantial economic benefit to this city," said Cohen.

He said Ruberto — the subject of an ethics investigation for more than a year — has always "been open and honest about this issue from the start."

The final deal Duquette signed with Ruberto included an annual $10,000 payment to the city and a $300 per-game fee. Cohen pointed out that many other teams in the league paid their host municipalities as little as $1.

Last week, the state commission filed documents alleging that both Duquette and Ruberto violated state ethics laws.

The commission's enforcement division alleges that there was "enormous demand" for those tickets, which were not available to the general public at face-value prices. Rather, 2004 World Series tickets fetched up $2,000 per ticket on Web sites such as craigslist, eBay and aceticket.com.

Duquette admitted to selling the tickets to Ruberto to get the mayor "to support the Pittsfield Dukes playing at Wahconah Park," according to investigators.

"In offering World Series tickets to Ruberto, Duquette intended to influence Ruberto as to their future negotiations regarding the licensing and concession agreements," according to a statement issued yesterday by the Ethics Commission.

On the matter of allegedly misusing public resources, the mayor did not admit to any wrongdoing, Giannotti said.

However, Ruberto did agree to allow the commission to issue what is known as a Public Education Letter, or PEL, Giannotti said.

The PEL, tantamount to a public reprimand, stated that the mayor improperly used public resources in connection with two political events.

On Oct. 31, 2006, Ruberto held a press conference at Pittsfield City Hall to endorse the candidacy of now state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, a fellow Democrat from Pittsfield.

Ruberto directed his aide, "a municipal employee working on municipal time," to make the arrangements for the event.

The second political event occurred on Nov. 1, 2006, at Pittsfield High School, after representatives of the "Deval Patrick for Governor" campaign contacted Ruberto and suggested a town hall-style campaign event, where students could ask Patrick questions.

Ruberto then directed his aide to help organize the event, which included public officials, teachers, administrators and students, none of whom were allowed to ask questions, according to ethics investigators.

The Ethics Commission found reasonable cause to believe that Ruberto violated the conflict law by using public facilities for political purposes and directing his aide to assist in the events.

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"By not gifting the mayor a ticket ... I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law," said Daniel Duquette.
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"Duquette defends ticket deal in Pittsfield: Face-value sale to mayor not political, he insists"
By James Vaznis, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 1, 2008

Former Red Sox general manager Daniel Duquette is embroiled in a state ethics controversy for selling Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield two tickets to the 2004 World Series at face value when such seats were fetching as much as $2,000 apiece.

Duquette told investigators that he sold Ruberto the two tickets for $190 each because he wanted his minor league team, then known as the Berkshire Dukes, to play at a city park, according to a statement released yesterday by the enforcement division of the State Ethics Commission.

State investigators allege that the transaction violated the state's conflict-of-interest law because face-value tickets were not available at the time to the general public. Tickets were selling on the Internet for $600 to $2,000 per ticket, according to the statement.

"By selling the World Series tickets to Ruberto at face value, where the general public could only obtain such tickets at prices more than $50 over face value, Duquette provided something of substantial value to Ruberto for or because of official acts to be performed by Ruberto as mayor," the statement says.

Duquette, in an e-mail yesterday, denied selling the tickets to gain a political favor with the mayor, whom he described as a family friend for many years.

Asked about his alleged statement to commission investigators, he repeated his assertion that he was not in any way trying to influence public policy when he sold Ruberto the tickets.

"I believed then and I believe now that by not gifting the mayor a ticket and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball, I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation, or ethical norm," Duquette said in the e-mail.

Duquette, whose eight-year stint as the Red Sox general manager ended in 2002, also said he believed the enforcement division was out of line in saying that tickets were selling for much more on the Internet, when Major League Baseball rules forbid officials to sell tickets for greater than face value.

The mayor's lawyer, Leonard H. Cohen, said in a statement that the purchase of the World Series tickets did not influence the mayor's dealings with Duquette's minor league team.

"He purchased two tickets at face value ($190/ea) to the second game of the 2004 Red Sox World Series for one reason and one reason only," Cohen's statement read of the transaction. "He, like countless other Red Sox fans in New England and elsewhere, at last had hopes that his beloved team would win the World Series in his lifetime."

Cohen added: "Jimmy Ruberto, dedicated public servant and long-suffering Red Sox fan, purchased two tickets to see his team, and there is simply no impropriety in that."

Both Cohen and Duquette emphasized that the resulting deal for the team to play at Wahconah Park resulted in substantial benefits for the city.

The team, now known as the Pittsfield Dukes, pays the city $10,000 annually and a per-game fee of $300, more than any other New England Collegiate Baseball League team paid for a home facility last year, Duquette said.

"If this were more widely known, I believe it would reassure citizens of Pittsfield and Massachusetts state officials that the mayor represented their interests exceedingly well in this transaction," Duquette said, "and there was nothing improper about its execution for either the landlord or the tenant."

The Ethics Commission will schedule public hearings on the alleged violations within 90 days. Cohen and Duquette each face a possible $2,000 fine.
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www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/07/01/duquette_defends_ticket_deal_in_pittsfield/
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"Costly Red Sox tickets"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, July 01, 2008

We agree with Leonard Cohen, attorney for Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, that the mayor is a dedicated public servant, and we don't doubt that the mayor is a devoted fan of the Boston Red Sox, as Mr. Cohen also described him. In the case of the World Series tickets the mayor purchased from Pittsfield Dukes owner Dan Duquette in 2004, the mayor's passion for the Red Sox got in the way of his judgment as a public servant.

The State Ethics Commission's enforcement division claims that the state's conflict of interest law was violated when Mr. Duquette, who was negotiating a lease agreement for use of Wahconah Park, sold two tickets to the second game of the World Series to Mr. Ruberto for $190 each. By selling the tickets at face value when the public could not purchase the highly desirable tickets at face value, "Duquette provided something of substantial value to Ruberto for or because of official acts to be performed by Ruberto as mayor," according to the enforcement division's statement.

While it is unclear how this ticket sale came to light a year after the Red Sox won a second World Series, Mr. Duquette, who as the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox is not unworldly, should have known how this would look if it ever came to light. So should the mayor, who knows that appearances matter in government and politics.

At the anticipated public hearings, however, the ethics commission will surely be asked to explain why it observed that Red Sox World Series tickets were selling for up to $2,000 on the Internet in its complaint. If it is implying that the sale would not have violated ethics laws if Mr. Duquette had sold them to the mayor for $2,000 apiece then it should note that such an act would have put Mr. Duquette, who received the tickets from Major League Baseball, in violation of MLB rules forbidding the resale of tickets above face value. Given the ultimate signing of a deal with the Dukes by City Hall that appears to be in the city's favor, it may also be difficult to prove that there was a quid pro quo in the mayor's purchase of the tickets from the Dukes' owner.

That said, it would have been better had Mr. Ruberto been content to watch the games on Fox. This sale, even if fundamentally between two Berkshire Red Sox fans, invited scrutiny.

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"Duquette: No favors asked"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, July 03, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield Dukes owner Dan Duquette insisted yesterday that he was seeking no favors from Mayor James M. Ruberto when he sold World Series tickets to the mayor at face value in October 2004.

The state Ethics Commission's enforcement division has alleged that both Ruberto and Duquette violated the state's conflict of interest law because of the transaction, and could each face fines of up to $2,000.

At the time, Duquette was negotiating a deal to bring his New England Collegiate Baseball League to Wahconah Park.

According to the state Ethics Commission's report released this week, Duquette told investigators he sold Ruberto two tickets to Game 2 of the 2004 World Series at face value because he wanted the mayor to support the Dukes' proposal for a Pittsfield venue.

However, in an e-mail to the Boston Globe, Duquette denied selling the tickets to gain a political favor with the mayor.

"I did not give conflicting statements," the former Red Sox general manager and Dalton native said yesterday in a telephone interview with The Eagle.

State law has prohibitions against offering anything of substantial value to a municipal employee in connection with official business. Conflict questions arise when public officials or employees, because of their appointed or elected positions, are given tickets at lower prices than would be available to the general public.

Duquette offered the seats to Ruberto at $190 each, the face value of the tickets.

But according to the Ethics Commission, those tickets were "of substantial value" to Ruberto, because Series tickets were selling to the general public for $600 to $2,000 at online ticket sale sites.

According to Duquette, the World Series tickets were only of use to Ruberto as a "favor to a friend." Ruberto has been friendly with Duquette's family for many years.

Duquette said he spoke with investigators from the Ethics Commission's enforcement division about the incident, but said he didn't know how the commission concluded that he was seeking favorable treatment from Ruberto.

"You'll have to ask the commission," Duquette said.

In an order released last Friday that begins the legal process against Duquette for his alleged violation of the conflict of interest law, the Ethics Commission states that "Duquette sold the tickets to Ruberto because he wanted Ruberto as mayor to support the Dukes proposal.

"When asked if he intended to link his providing this opportunity to any specific acts, Duquette stated yes to the acts that Ruberto would take as mayor regarding the licensing and concession agreements," the order states.

"The document speaks for itself in that regard," said Ethics' Commission spokesman David Giannatti, who declined to comment further.

Duquette's statement is repeated in a similar order that the Ethics Commission filed against Ruberto.

Ruberto's attorney, Leonard H. Cohen of Pittsfield, said on Tuesday that the mayor had no idea when he purchased the tickets from Duquette that the former Red Sox general manager was seeking favors for the Dukes.

The Dukes officially moved from Hinsdale to Pittsfield in March 2005, and currently pay the highest stadium fee of any of the NECBL's 13 teams.

According to Duquette, the fee is so high that he was unable to pay all of the team's expenses from last year until April. The city declined to sign the Dukes' current one-year lease to use Wahconah Park until Duquette paid the $8,531 that he owed.

Duquette said yesterday he offered the tickets to Ruberto because a family member who had attended the first game of the World Series couldn't make it to Game 2.

"I don't think the mayor meant any harm," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, when asked to comment on the allegations against Ruberto.

"I think the real lesson is that in the long run, especially in public office, is that we need to go as far as we can to ensure that we should be held to a high standard," Downing said. "I think there was no ill intent on the part of the mayor. I think if he knew this in 2004, he would've been shocked."

Following a preliminary inquiry, the Ethics Commission also determined that there was "reasonable cause" that Ruberto violated ethics laws in 2006 when he held a press conference at City Hall to endorse Downing's candidacy, and when he arranged a political rally for Deval L. Patrick at Pittsfield High School the next day.

Downing said yesterday that he was unaware that Ruberto's endorsement at City Hall posed a legal conflict.

Instead of fining Ruberto, the Ethics Commission chose to resolve the matter with an "education letter" because "it believes the public interest would best be served by doing so. . .Therefore, this matter is now closed."

Through a spokeswoman, Gov. Deval L. Patrick declined to comment on the allegations involving Ruberto.

In February 2007, the state Office of Campaign and Finance also found that Ruberto's use of public resources for the Downing press conference did not comply with the campaign finance law. The state agency took no punitive action; it provided Ruberto with guidelines to ensure that the situation does not happen again.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"Mayor's integrity is above question"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, July 04, 2008

In regards to the July 1 article, "Pittsfield mayor accused of Sox misstep," Mayor James Ruberto is a man of integrity. His personal and professional character are what many of us seek to attain.

As Pittsfield natives and long-time friends and admirers of Jim Ruberto, we encouraged and supported his decision to seek election as mayor of Pittsfield. We have every reason to be proud of the man we supported. He, and the city he leads, deserve better than a time-consuming distraction about the cost of baseball tickets.

Keep going, Jim. Those who know you stand with you.

BOB MATTHEWS
MARYANN MATTHEWS
Trumbull, Ct.

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Readers' Comments:

"Obviously these people don't know the 'real' Mayor. The one who threatens, bullies and blusters to get his way. Where I was sitting today at the parade, I only heard boo's for him and the council. That's the true indicator of how people feel about him and what he has done." - Dee, 7/4/2008, North Adams.

&

"maybe his integrity isn't tip top but he does have a sense of humor(remember)-Allendale School had the PCB problem with the air filters being stolen before they could have them tested--It only took this mayor three months and a million accusations before he thought of asking the janitor--Now that's funny----wellll maybe not for the kids at school but robber2 figured it out--PERSONNALLY I think anybody in their right mind would have asked the janitor the first day. -Harvard Grad, 7/7/2008, Albany, NY.

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"Road paving begins: Pittsfield tending to long-neglected city roads."
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, July 07, 2008

PITTSFIELD — "Bumpy, bumpy, bumpy."

That's how Katie Robertson describes the experience of riding her bicycle on Winship Avenue in Pittsfield.

Dirt-filled potholes pock the streets. Stormwater runoff deposits debris on residents' lawns when it rains. These are the road conditions that the residents of the neighborhood above Pontoosuc Lake off North Street say they're used to dealing with.

Those residents, and several others throughout the city, are finally receiving some relief.

As part of Pittsfield's $8.2 million, fiscal 2009 capital budget that was approved last month, the City Council authorized the borrowing of an additional $3 million for the reconstruction and resurfacing of city streets. The new allocation will be added to the $3.5 million that the city borrowed to begin the program in fiscal 2008, which ended on June 30. The fiscal 2008 allocation represented 61 percent of the city's entire capital budget that year.

The city also receives more than $1 million in state Chapter 90 road funding, which is paying for some items associated with the resurfacing project, according to Public Works & Utilities Commissioner Bruce I. Collingwood. Sidewalks are also being resurfaced, but that funding is contained in a separate line item, he said.

The road repairs range from blacktop resurfacing to chip sealing, an oil and stone application that is sprayed onto the streets as a sealer, Collingwood said.

The streets above Pontoosuc Lake are being resurfaced with funding from the fiscal 2008 capital budget. Collingwood said the Public Works Department, with input from Pittsfield's seven ward councilors, is currently compiling a list of roads that need to be addressed during the current fiscal year.

Work on some of the roads slated for the fiscal 2009 funding will begin in September and October, but the majority of the work will take place next spring, Collingwood said.

Although some road repairs take place in Pittsfield every year, neither Collingwood nor Mayor James M. Ruberto knows when the last extensive resurfacing of city streets took place.

Ruberto said the resurfacing Pittsfield's roads is being given priority at a time when the city can afford it.

"The initial focus of this administration was on ending teacher layoffs, properly staffing and funding the drug task force and investigation team, and ensuring that we put an end to the annual debate about keeping the (Fire Department) substations open," said Mayor James M. Ruberto, who is serving in his third two-year term.

"Having done that last year, we were in the position to address the issue of taking care of the roads," he said.

"I think it's about time," said Bob Plankey, of Westchester Avenue, who retired 12 years ago after working in the auto parts business. "I've been here 42 years, and I pay as much taxes as anybody."

Plankey said he lives on the low side of Westchester Avenue, which meant that when it rained hard, water runoff would go through his driveway then into the garage where it would collect in a pool between six and eight inches deep. As part of the resurfacing project, workers have placed an apron in Plankey's driveway.

Lynn Collins, who has lived on Broadway for 15 years, said washouts from several side streets have deposited debris on her property. "Gravel, dirt and rocks," Collins said. "I was always picking rocks off my lawn."

The road repairs are especially welcome in Plankey and Collins' North End neighborhood because several roadways in that area are considered to be "unaccepted streets." Due to their status, those roads aren't eligible for either city maintenance or state Chapter 90 funding.

Unaccepted streets are typically older roadways that, for whatever reason, were never made eligible for the process that new streets go through to become officially accepted city roadways, Collingwood said.

"Based on the requirements for acceptance" — which include width, boundaries and right-of-way — "they are considered nonconforming," Collingwood said.

"When I first moved up here in 1963, it was dirt," the 73-year-old Plankey said, referring to Westchester Avenue. "Every spring you'd have to go out through the ruts, and it was hard to drive through. It's been paved only once, and it's been at least 20 years."

Tom Spencer, a foreman for Warner Bros. LLC of Sunderland, which the city hired to do resurfacing work, used one word to describe the road conditions in that neighborhood.

"Terrible," he said. "Potholes, poor drainage. Let's just say a million dollars' worth of work was done a month ago."

Linda Robertson, who lives with her daughter Katie on Winship Avenue, said she used to have to drive slow because her street "was all full of holes."

Robertson now refers to the resurfaced road as "smooth."

"They're taking care of the edges," Robertson said. "It looks nicer."
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From left, Bryce Daly, 9, Sheila LaBarbera, Rachel Segel, 8, her grandfather Al Belanger, and his mother Marie Belanger, unveil a commemorative plaque yesterday for Pittsfield great Mark Belanger at the Belanger Athletic Complex in Pittsfield. (Photos by Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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"One more time for Belanger"
By Winton Brown, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, July 10, 2008

PITTSFIELD — For Mark Belanger's family, it was an honor to witness the unveiling of his plaque at the Belanger Athletic Complex yesterday.

Family members, including Belanger's mother and brother, helped unveil the plaque after a dedication speech given by Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto. Al Belanger, Mark's brother, said the dedication was a great respect to Mark's memory.

"I consider it a great honor for my brother," Belanger said. "To have the city do this meant a lot to me and my family."

According to Belanger, it was former mayor Gerald Doyle's idea to name the athletic complex on the corner of East and Newell streets after his brother. Despite taking a few years, the park was finally named after him.

The idea of creating a plaque in Belanger's memory was not a new one.

Parks Commission Chairman Sheila LaBarbera said there have been quite a few discussions regarding a plaque. She said that it was created to serve a purpose for the youth.

"It was made to have something for the current and future generations to know why the field was dedicated to him," said LaBarbera.

The journey to create the plaque had no obstacles — primarily because there was much support from the family and the city.

"It was a cooperative effort," LaBarbera added.

The complex itself holds a lighted Little League field, a soccer field, a track and another playing area.

Belanger, a Pittsfield native, played baseball for the Baltimore Orioles from 1965-1981, retiring after the 1982 season. He excelled at shorstop for the O's with a fielding percentage of .977, winning eight Gold Gloves — six of them in a row, from 1973-78.

Belanger played in four World Series for the Orioles, winning with them in 1970. He was an All-Star in 1976.

Before Belanger became a star in the majors, however, he was a two-sport standout at Pittsfield High School. Belanger had an amazing career in both baseball and basketball for the Generals.

In his senior year, he led the Generals to the Western Massachusetts basketball championship. Belanger finished his career with 1,455 points, currently the fourth-highest total all-time among Berkshire County players and the second-highest total in Pittsfield High School basketball history.

The 1962 PHS grad's athletic talents earned him both a chance at a college basketball scholarship as well as a deal with the Orioles.

Ten years after Belanger's death at age 54, his legacy remains intact within the community.

More than anyone else, yesterday's unveiling and dedication meant the most to the Belanger family.

Mark's mother Marie, 90, was one of the family members on hand for the dedication, front and center for the unveiling.

It brought joy to Al to watch his mother take in that moment.

"It brought tears to her eyes," he said. "She was able to see it."

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"Ethics commission cites Ruberto: Mayor used city resources to promote Patrick"
30.JUNE.2008, THE PITTSFIELD GAZETTE, Jonathan Levine, Publisher

The state ethics commission on Monday announced actions taken regarding investigations of Mayor James Ruberto.

The commission issued an official public education letter, but took no other punitive action, after concluding there is “reasonable cause” to believe Ruberto violated the state’s conflict of interest laws by using public resources for political campaigns.

Separately, the commission announced that it is pursuing action against Ruberto and former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette related to World Series tickets Ruberto purchased from Duquette while the two were negotiating a license to allow Duquette to use Wahconah Park for the Berkshire Dukes collegiate baseball team.

The public resources rebuke is based on campaign 2006 events exposed by The Pittsfield Gazette.
Ruberto hosted an October 30 press conference at City Hall to endorse state senate candidate Ben Downing. State law prohibits use of public resources — such as staff and equipment — for political activity. The commission concluded there is “reasonable cause to believe that Ruberto violated the conflict law by, in his capacity as Mayor, directing his aide to set up the press conference at which he endorsed Senate candidate Downing, and by using city resources to hold the press conference and to send out the press notice.”

Later that week, Ruberto facilitated a school-day rally at Pittsfield High School to promote the candidacies of Downing, U.S. Representative John Olver and gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick. Extensive public resources were expended on that event which the ethics commission determined “was essentially a partisan political rally.”

According to ethics executive director Karen Nober, “the commission has consistently held the use of public resources of substantial value ($50 or more) for the purpose of supporting a political campaign amounts to the use of one’s official position to secure an unwarranted privilege.”

The five-page public education letter says of the press conference, “you used your official position to secure city resources for a private political purpose.”

Regarding the rally, the letter cites public resources Ruberto allocated for the event including the assignment of building department employees, parks employees, police officers and school custodians on overtime to prepare for the event, at city expense. The letter states, “the event was predominantly campaign-oriented, replete with candidate signs and endorsement speeches, and devoid of any questions from the students.”

While no further action will be taken regarding those violations — “the commission ... chose to resolve this case with an education letter rather than by imposing a fine because it believes the public interest would best be served by doing so” — the commission is pursuing the Wahconah Park issue.
At issue are two tickets to game two of the 2004 World Series which Duquette provided to Ruberto, at face value “during the time that Duquette and Ruberto were negotiating to allow the Berkshire Dukes to play at Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park.”

The ethics commission says there was “enormous demand” for the tickets which were being sold for $600 to $2000. Ruberto paid $190.
The commission alleges that “Duquette admitted that he sold the tickets to Ruberto because he wanted Ruberto to support the Berkshire Dukes playing at Wahconah Park.”

State law prohibits municipal ofifcials “from directly or indirectly accepting anything of substantial value for himself for or because of any official act or act within his official responsiblity performed or to be performed by such employee.”

Through his office, Ruberto deferred all questions this week to his attorney, Leonard Cohen, who issued the following prepared statement:

“Jimmy Ruberto is a dedicated citizen of the City of Pittsfield and a devoted member of Red Sox Nation. He purchased two tickets at face value ($190/ea) to the second game of the 2004 World Series for one reason and one reason only. He, like countless other Red Sox fans in New England and elsewhere, at last had hopes that his beloved team would win the World Series in his lifetime.

“No one can dispute that Mayor Ruberto vigorously represented the interests of the City of Pittsfield. He drove a hard bargain with the Pittsfield Dukes prior to his purchasing the World Series tickets. He drove an even harder bargain after he attended the game. His hard work, dedication and selflessness with respect to the negotiations involving the Pittsfield Dukes and Wahconah Park resulted in substantial economic benefit to this City. The Mayor has been open and honest about this issue from the start. Jimmy Ruberto, dedicated public servant and long suffering Red Sox fan, purchased two tickets to see his team and there is simply no impropriety in that.”

Regarding the use of public resources, Cohen noted that the ethics commission ”ultimately concluded it was not a matter that necessitated further action.” He termed the public education letter an advisory “as far as the future, we suggest you do things in a different fashion.”

Duquette did not respond to queries regarding the ethics case. However he did send an email to The Boston Globe in which he denies trying to influence Ruberto saying “I believed then and I believe now that by not gifting the mayor a ticket and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball, I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation or ethical norm.”

The ethics commission has filed formal court dockets to pursue action against Ruberto and Duquette with public hearings to be scheduled.
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The text of the public resources education letter appears on page 27 of the July 3 edition of the (Pittsfield) Gazette.
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"Engraving venture launches"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, July 12, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Interprint executives, public officials and business leaders yesterday celebrated the company's construction launch of its new $7 million addition, which will house the first digital laser engraving system in the United States used for decorative laminated paper.

Interprint's venture at the Route 41 plant will make room for technology that provides more distinct patterns and designs for its paper-based products, with faster turnaround time.

The company has been outsourcing the engraving process to a Holyoke firm, and will soon be doing that task in-house, with a higher level of detail and quality, said Jens Bauer, managing director of Interprint.

Eventually, Interprint will sell the engraving technology to other high-tech decorative printing clients as well, said Bauer.

Five new jobs are projected for 2009 when the 18,000-square-foot expansion is complete, said Bauer, and eventual growth will bring more jobs. The company presently has 130 employees at its Pittsfield plant.

Yesterday's event comes about two years after completion of Interprint's $27 million construction of new headquarters, which measures 138,000 square feet. The company had operated for two decades on Pecks Road, until its growth called for a major new construction elsewhere.

Interprint is owned by a German paper company, which took the lead in experimenting with the laser printing technology now being installed in Pittsfield.

The German firm is initially backing the expansion costs, though discussions are under way regarding some local financing for the project, said Interprint Managing Director William M. Hines Jr.; he and Bauer share management of the business.

The company makes decorative paper used in making laminated countertops, flooring and other residential and commercial applications, with annual sales of around $60 million to companies such as Wilsonart, Pergo, Formica and Armstrong, according to the company.

Hines said yesterday the company produced enough decorative paper last year "to circle the equator twice."

Bauer said Interprint shares concerns about the economic troubles of the time, but that the company has a "optimistic spirit" about the future and the welfare of its employees.

"We strive to be a cornerstone company within Pittsfield," said Bauer.

Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, addressing an assembled crowd of about 40 beneath a tent next to Interprint's construction site, again got to deliver his favorite city booster message: "Today is a great day for Pittsfield."

"We're here to show that in Pittsfield we celebrate business, we celebrate development and we celebrate success," said Ruberto. "This is another new technology coming to this community."

He noted that Interprint's groundbreaking comes days after the opening this week of Unistress Corp.'s new Unistress Steelworks. That venture is another example of industrial "in-sourcing" of products Unistress has been buying elsewhere: The welded reinforced steel bars that form the internal spine of Unistress' precast concrete slabs for parking garages, bridges, roads and other uses.

Unistress, like Interprint, predicts that by internalizing work it had been paying for elsewhere, the company will see lower costs, improved efficiency and eventually selling the products to other industry clients. The new steel fabrication operation includes about 50 employees.

Across town in June, Sampco — which produces supply samples for the building trades industry — expanded with a new venture, Brilliant Graphics, which provides large-format digital printing services.

That expansion produced five new graphic design jobs, a number the owner said could eventually grow to 25.

Yesterday at Interprint, David Rooney, the executive director and president of Berkshire Economic Development Corp., said the expansion reflects that "manufacturing is alive, and I think this is a great example of a non-traditional, creative economy company."

Maxymillian Construction of Pittsfield has begun site work and excavation on the south end of the industrial plant.

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"Biking Benefit Cycles Through Pittsfield"
By Justin Saldo -iBerkshires Intern- July 18, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A group cyclists embarking on a 250-mile journey to promote awareness of HIV and AIDS stopped at City Hall on Friday afternoon to get a boost from local Red Cross and city officials.

This was the second time David Butler, founder and chief executive officer of the Safe Haven Project, has cycled through the city. Last year, he embarked alone on his "Capital to Capital Bike" tour and was thrilled with his reception here.

"The incredibly receptive reaction from supporters along the journey is really what made me want to do the event again," said Butler in a phone interview on Thursday. "It gave everyone in the organization the energy that got us through last year."

He said he was particularly pleased with the reception he received from Mayor James M. Ruberto last year. The mayor was out of town Friday and unable to greet Butler and his fellow bikers but several city councilors were expected to be on hand.

Safe Haven is based in Northampton and provides youth learning opportunities focused on prevention, awareness and community outreach. Safe Haven hosts camps for children living with AIDS on Martha's Vineyard, and in Maryland and North Carolina, at no cost to families and helps educate about AIDS/HIV in Africa.

Butler, an Air Force veteran and physical education and health teacher, founded the project in 1993 and now operates it full time. He settled on a bike tour from Albany, N.Y., to Boston last year as a way to inspire and motivate people to pay attention to the AIDS epidemic.

Based on 2007 research from the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 33.2 million people living with HIV, 2.5 million people newly infected and more than 2.1 million people have died of AIDS.

Last year's bike tour raised $3,200; this year, it has already received $3,000 with the expectation of raising $10,000.

"The success of the event is not measured by financial support alone" said Butler "The connections Safe Haven has forged with cities, businesses and most importantly people in support of this cause is what has truly given us the momentum we needed as a vehicle to bring people together and educate them on the issue of HIV and AIDS.

"Any donations we receive during these hard financial times are greatly appreciated," he continued, "but individuals can support us in many ways like become a volunteer for our events or camps."

Butler predicted that with the support and momentum gained from this year's bike tour that it would once again expand in size from the 10 to 15 cyclists to 20 to 30 joining the trek next year.

The cyclists started off Friday morning and expect to be in Boston on Sunday. In addition to Pittsfield, the cyclists will stop in Greenfield, Northampton, Southampton, Belchertown and Worcester.

Since its inception 14 years ago, Safe Haven has raised $1.5 million for its cause.

Sponsors of Safe Haven this year are CVS, Harley-Davidson and Holiday Inn Express.

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"The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair"
iBerkshires.com - July 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD - On Sunday, August 3, the first two blocks of North Street will be closed to traffic and filled with thousands of pedestrians enjoying tantalizing aromas, captivating rhythms and colorful costumes as once again the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair celebrates the many cultures that make up our region.

Free and open to all, the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair will be held, rain or shine, from noon to 6 p.m. with dozens of international food and craft vendors and two stages of music and dance including African music and dance, salsa rhythms, Irish fiddles, Scottish bagpipes, Indian dance, and much more from around the world. In addition, a veritable United Nations of birds will be featured in the immensely popular Raptor Project Birds of Prey show and exhibit at the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair.

Mayor James Ruberto is a big fan of the Fair. “As the grandson of Italian immigrants I believe it is important for our community to celebrate its cultural heritage and to welcome and celebrate new immigrants and cultures as well. That’s why we have made Pittsfield a ‘Welcoming Community’ for new immigrants and why each year we help sponsor the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair, to highlight and enjoy the many contributions that both old and new immigrants have made to our community.”

The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair committee is chaired by Mario DeMartino, a longtime community leader. He noted, “The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair highlights and celebrates the best of our community. I’m glad my children and grandchildren are able to attend and enjoy the rich diversity found here and the wonderful music, dance, food and craft that is featured every year. Please bring your kids and grand kids to the Pittsfield Ethnic Fair so they can learn about and experience different cultures – and have fun too!”

The Fair stretches over the first two blocks of North Street, which will be closed to traffic, as well as onto Dunham Mall, Fenn Street and in front of City Hall. Plentiful and free parking is available at the McKay Street parking garage, the First Street parking lot and the Columbus Avenue parking lot.

Vendors from around the world will be offering mouthwatering treats from Colombia, Italy, Brazil, India, Ireland, Poland, Greece, Africa, Ecuador, the Caribbean and more, as well as wine and beer tents for those over 21 years old. Food vendors include La Fogata Colombian Restaurant, Papa Joe’s Ristorante, House of India, Corinne’s Greek Restaurant, the Polish Falcons, the Brazilian Restaurant & Pub, the German-American Club, The Italian-American Club, UNICO of Pittsfield, the Irish-American Club, Berkshire Amistad, Sabor Restaurante, Hot Harry’s Fresh Burritos, the Crowne Plaza, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, Sons of Italy Itam Lodge, and more. Craft booths will feature Kenyan handicrafts, international jewelry, Indian clothing, Russian and Greek items, and other products.

The Pittsfield Ethnic Fair is generously underwritten by the Berkshire Bank Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and General Systems, and cosponsored by the City of Pittsfield and Downtown Inc. Hillcrest Commons is the sponsor for the Birds of Prey exhibit and performances. For more information, please visit www.culturalpittsfield.com or call 413-499-9348.

2008 Ethnic Fair Performance Schedule

Main Stage: North Street at West Street

Noon Welcome

12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Berkshire Highlanders

12:45 to 1:15 p.m. Albany Berkshire Ballet

1:15 to 2:15 p.m. Jimmy McCardle & Irish Country

2:15 to 2:45 p.m. Flamenco dance with Maria Bermudez

2:45 to 3:30 p.m. Jimmy McCardle & Irish Country

3:30 to 4 p.m. Gayathri traditional Indian dance

4 to 5 p.m. Akwaaba Ensemble African dance and drumming

5 to 6 p.m. Afonso Lopez y Orchestra La Perfecta

Second Stage: North Street at Columbus Avenue

12:30 to 1 p.m. Youth Alive Step Dance & Drum Line

1 to 2 p.m. Mark VI Polka Orchestra

2 to 2:30 p.m. Gayathri traditional Indian dance

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Mark VI Polka Orchestra

3:30 to 4 p.m. Michael Farrell School of Irish Dance

4 to 6 p.m. Mark VI Polka Orchestra

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Pittsfield Ethnic Fair celebrates the many cultures that make up our region.
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www.iberkshires.com/story.php?story_id=27845
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Funding cleared for Pittsfield cinema project"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, July 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials yesterday officially signed off on the local financing for the $22.4 million Beacon Cinemas project in the 90-year-old Kinnell-Kresge building on North Street.

The Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, which is providing $7.7 million in equity through tax credits to the project, will sign off on its portion of the funding in Boston today, said Director of Community Development Deanna L. Ruffer.

Construction is expected to begin within the next month, said Richard Stanley of Egremont, the project's managing partner. Ruffer said an official groundbreaking ceremony will take place in late August or early September.

"It's a major relief that it's actually done," Stanley said of yesterday's signing. "So many people have worked so hard. This project couldn't have happened without the cooperation of a lot of people. It's a long list that goes from Berkshire County to Boston."

Mayor James M. Ruberto could not be reached for comment.

Stanley said some environmental issues regarding vinyl tiles that contain asbestos need to be resolved before construction can begin and an interior section of the Kinnell-Kresge building that faces McKay Street also needs to be demolished.

Nine years in the making, the Beacon Cinema project will include six theaters with stadium-style seating and adjacent retail space.

Construction was originally expected to begin last year, but was delayed when the National Park Service determined the design did not retain enough of the historic elements of the facade and entryway of the Kinnell-Kresge building to qualify for $900,000 in federal historic tax credits.

The delay sent the project's total cost soaring from last year's projected cost of $12.6 million.

The project also contains $4.6 million in loans from five local financial institutions, $2.9 million from the city of Pittsfield, state and federal historic tax credits, and $800,000 from the project's managing partner, Richard Stanley of Egremont. Stanley has also provided a personal guarantee of $1 million.

Ruberto has said the cinema is expected to draw 200,000 to 250,000 people annually to downtown Pittsfield, providing a direct economic impact of $2 million and bringing approximately $1.7 million to downtown restaurants and businesses.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224
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"Ruberto ethics hearing date set"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, July 26, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The state Ethics Commission will begin the hearing process in its case against Mayor James M. Ruberto, who allegedly violated state law when he bought a pair of 2004 World Series tickets at face value from former Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette.

A "pre-hearing" in the Ruberto-Duquette case has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 22, Ethics Commission spokesman David Giannotti said yesterday. The hearing will take place at the Ethics Commission's main office at 1 Ashburton Place in Boston.

Duquette, a Dalton native and president of the New England College Baseball League's Pittsfield Dukes, has also been charged with breaking the conflict of interest law.

Both men face civil fines of up to $2,000.

According to Giannotti, the hearing is similar to a pre-trial hearing in a criminal matter, in which attorneys meet to discuss the case.

"Sometimes they only take 10 or 15 minutes," Giannotti said.

One or two pre-hearings are usually scheduled before the Ethics Commission proceeds to an adjudicatory hearing, Giannotti said. Additional pre-hearings will be scheduled in August.

It's possible that the parties could agree on a disposition to the case before it proceeds that far, he added.

An adjudicatory hearing was originally scheduled for September, but has been postponed at the request of the parties involved, Giannotti said. By law, the Ethics Commission is required to schedule a hearing within 90 days of issuing an order to show cause, similar to an indictment.

The commission issued it show-cause orders Ruberto and Duquette on June 26.

Duquette recently hired legal counsel, resulting delay, Giannotti said. Ruberto is represented by Pittsfield attorney Leonard H. Cohen.

The Ethics Commission claims Ruberto violated ethics laws when he bought World Series tickets during Duquette's negotiations with the city over allowing the Dukes to move from his Sports Academy in Hinsdale to Pittsfield's Wahconah Park.

According to the Ethics Commission, Ruberto accepted two tickets at $190 each to Game 2 of the 2004 World Series between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park.

Those tickets were "of substantial value" to Ruberto because World Series tickets were being sold to the general public at $600 to $2,000 in online ticket sales.

State law has prohibitions against offering anything of substantial value to a municipal employee in connection with official business.

Conflict questions arise when public officials or employees are given tickets at lower prices than would be available to the general public.

Both Ruberto and Duquette have denied any wrongdoing.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle; (413) 496-6224.
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"Pittsfield could get $2M to fix ballpark"
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"Measure includes $2M for city park"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, July 26, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The city of Pittsfield could receive an additional $2 million in state funding for further renovations to historic Wahconah Park under a measure approved by the state House of Representatives.

The funds have been secured by state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, as a bond authorization. The measure will now be considered by the Senate.

The city has already obtained $775,000 in local and state funding to renovate 3,100-seat Wahconah Park, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Those funds are slated for the Wahconah Park Improvement Project, which will improve the parking lot and field conditions and make fan-friendly improvements to the 58-year-old grandstand. The bulk of those renovations are scheduled to occur this fall and next spring.

Speranzo said the additional $2 million would help the city improve the stadium along the lines of plans that were originally proposed four years ago by Wahconah Park Inc., the South County group headed by former New York Yankees' pitcher Jim Bouton of North Egremont.

Speranzo said it would probably cost $2 million in today's dollars to complete what Wahconah Park Inc. first proposed four years ago.

"This is $2 million that will help the city renovate Wahconah Park any way they choose," Speranzo said. "They can make any renovations that they want to."

Mayor James M. Ruberto could not be reached for comment.

Wahconah Park Inc. had planned to obtain a license from the city that would require the group to spend $1.5 million in one year to renovate the ballpark, then purchase an independent league team that would begin play in Pittsfield by the 2005 season. But the group withdrew its plans in October 2004 following a controversy over whether the project should be subjected to the state's public bidding laws.

The group was originally interested in renovating Wahconah Park for an independent league baseball team in 2001, but the Park Commission chose another offer to bring a team to Pittsfield instead.

Among its plans, the South County group planned to increase Wahconah Park's seating capacity to 5,000 by constructing two 170-foot grandstands along with left and right field lines. The group also planned to build new locker rooms and restrooms, which are included as part of the Wahconah Park Improvement Project.

Baseball was first played on Wahconah Park's current site in 1892, but the current grandstand wasn't built until 1950. It is one of the few stadiums with a mostly wooden grandstand that remain standing in the United States. The site was deeded to the city in 1919.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224
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"Weighing options on insurance"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, August 17, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials and representatives of 17 municipal unions have met in the first of five scheduled meetings to determine whether it is feasible for Pittsfield to join the Group Insurance Commission.

The GIC has administered health benefits for state employees and retirees since 1955. Last year, the state legislature approved the Municipal Partnership Act which allows cities and towns to join the GIC as part of the same risk pool, which has more than 294,000 members.

Following a three-month study, a group of city officials announced in May that Pittsfield could have saved $5.6 million in fiscal 2008 if it had joined the state insurance pool. The deadline for Pittsfield to join the GIC for fiscal 2010 is Oct. 1.

In order for Pittsfield to join the GIC, all 17 of the city's collective bargaining units have to agree to the measure by a margin of at least 70 percent of a vote "weighted" along each union's membership. Municipal unions normally negotiate with the city separately, in a process known as collective bargaining. But the GIC negotiations require the unions to negotiate as one group, a process known as coalition bargaining.

First steps

Tuesday's two-hour meeting at City Hall was the first step.

"I would characterize the meeting as friendly and that everybody came with an open mind," said Scott Eldridge, the president of the United Educators of Pittsfield, the
city's largest union, which represents 596 teachers.

According to Eldridge, the Public Employees Committee, consisting of the 17 union presidents and one retired employee, is planning to obtain more specific information on how the GIC operates, including co-pays and the number of health plan choices.

"After that we'll decide if it benefits all the parties," Eldridge said. "Right now we're going in with an open mind."

Committee chairwoman Pamela Delmolino, who heads the secretaries union in the School Department, described the meeting as "eventful."

Delmolino said it appeared that both sides are willing to work together to make the proposal work.

"I thought both sides are willing to talk and there wasn't any animosity on either side," Delmolino said. "I think most of the unions are for it. We (just) don't have the information."

"I sure hope that's accurate," Mayor James M. Ruberto said, when informed of the union leader's comments. "I think they've expressed a willingness to discuss this issue and it's certainly a position the city is appreciative of."

Following the meeting, Mayor James M. Ruberto said he contacted the GIC about having Executive Director Dolores L. Mitchell come to Pittsfield for a future meeting to answer any questions about the commission that employees might have.

Ruberto said he told the Public Employees Committee that the GIC would provide good health insurance options for city employees, and that the city is interested in receiving the most bang for the buck.

More choices

The GIC provides more choices to employees and retirees than most municipal health insurance options, including Pittsfield's. Holly Taylor, the city's health insurance broker, told the City Council last January that the city could initially save millions of dollars by joining the GIC, but that those savings would dissipate due to the cost of getting all the municipal unions to sign on to the plan.

The four other meetings between the city and the Public Employees Committee are scheduled for Sept. 2, Sept. 8, Sept. 11 and Sept. 23.

"We're hoping that by the 11th we'll have enough information to go back to our membership," Eldridge said. "The city has a deadline of Oct. 1. It's a lot to cover in a short period of time.

"The unions have agreed to make every effort to make this schedule," he said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224
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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Lack of detail scuttles meeting"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PITTSFIELD —The Pittsfield Public Schools Building Needs Commission postponed its meeting last night regarding the proposed super high school project.

City School Superintendent Howard J. Eberwein III announced yesterday afternoon it was rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 22, at Taconic High School. A tour of the school will be at 5 p.m., with the meeting to follow at 6 p.m. in the library.

Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who co-chairs the commission with Eberwein, said the principals at Taconic and Pittsfield High and city school maintenance officials need more time to gather information for the "Statement of Interest."

Farley-Bouvier said that documents must be submitted to the state School Building Authority by Nov. 15 in order for the project to be considered for state funding.

A team of consultants in May unveiled a proposed 423,000 square-foot complex that would educate all city public high school students on the current Taconic campus. The estimated $200 million project would accomodate about 2,000 students.

"It's too bad the commission couldn't meet," said Farley-Bouvier "But this document is much more detailed than the one submitted last year and it's taking longer to gather the necessary information."

She assured parents, students, teachers and city residents they will be heard on this issue.

"The real debate will come once we hear the many viewpoints from the public," Farley-Bouvier added. "This has to be a community discussion for this to come together."
She added the School Committee and City Council will also publicly debate the merits of a single high school complex and vote whether to support such a project.

Mayor James M. Ruberto agrees a consensus of residents, city and school officials is needed to convince the state the project is worthy of taxpayer dollars.

Ruberto, who backs the high school merger concept, said in an interview last week the proposal is "the beginning of a conversation in Pittsfield about how we're going to build a flagship high school for the next 50 years."

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"Bus woes plague city"
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, September 09, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Too many students, not enough transportation tickets, and not enough seats on the bus.

With the first full week of the school year under way, the Safety and Transportation subcommittee of Pittsfield Public Schools mulled over ways to accommodate the overflow of students who are ineligible for free bus service, but want to take the bus to school.

The city provides free bus service only to students who live more than two miles away from their school; Middle and high school students who live inside of that two-mile radius of their school must purchase a transportation ticket if they want bus transportation. Kindergartners who live within a half-mile radius, and pupils in Grades 1 through 6 who live who within a one-and-a-half mile radius, must purchase tickets in order to get a seat on the bus.

The tickets cost $180 a year, and are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Gloria J. Berne, director of bus operations, reported to the subcommittee last night that 463 students were approved for tickets, but 251 were still waiting.

"It breaks my heart to see they can't get on the bus," Berne said. "It took away from our glory. We put more people on the bus than ever before."

Although the buses seat 77, Berne said a maximum of 65 students are allowed on each bus.

"Seventy-seven passengers are three to a seat, with 13 inches apiece," Berne said. "There's just not enough room. We can't put 77 high-schoolers and middle-schoolers on a bus."

Berne also emphasized that the problem wasn't due to a decrease in bus routes — 49 routes were scheduled, the same as last year.

There was, however, a shortage of bus drivers, she said. Between September 2007 and the end of the last school year, the city lost 11 drivers. The year before, the city lost two.

"Five started training (this year), but only two showed up today," Berne said. "It has been a strain."

For the time being, at least, the transportation tickets are sold out, and the applications that came in after July 15 will not be considered until Oct. 1, when the bus operations department will get a complete head count and try to fit more students on the buses.

One parent who missed the deadline to purchase a ticket told the subcommittee that it was a risk to let her son, an eighth-grader at Herberg Middle School, attempt the walk to school.

"I don't feel it's safe for my kids," said Valerie Andersen, who lives on Dan Drive. Ken, her 13-year-old son, had to walk Williams Street to school, and there wasn't a sidewalk.

Andersen also said she wasn't notified about the transportation ticket deadline, and if a memo was sent home with students, she didn't get one.

Ken also told the subcommittee that he didn't get the June 1 memo from the bus operations department.

"I don't think I would have missed it," he said.

Herberg and Pittsfield High School students are bused together, and as a group, the two schools have 57 transportation ticket students on a waiting list — more than any of the other bus routes.

Egremont and Morningside Elementary Schools each have 30 students on their waiting lists, more than any of the other schools.

One subcommittee member wondered if the bus service policies were matching up with the safety of the students.

"To me, Newell Street at 6:40 a.m., is not a safe place for a sixth-grader," said Erin Sullivan.

A city councilor noted that the increased numbers wasn't a "blip on the screen," and he wondered if the first-come, first- served policy was best for the students.

"We might consider making the students' age and distance from school be the (eligibility) priority," said Ward 4 Councilor Michael L. Ward.

Subcommittee Chairman Carmen C. Massimiano suggested that the 65 to a bus policy might have to be changed.

"We have to look at filling the seats," he told the group. "It will require cooperation from children, but necessity requires it."

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"England had reached base first"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, September 13, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The earliest reference to "base ball" in North America may have occurred in Pittsfield, but an even earlier reference to the sport in southern England has just been made public.

According to The Associated Press, a reference to baseball in a diary by English lawyer William Bray dates back to 1755 — 36 years before Pittsfield's bylaw banning "base ball" to protect the windows in the new town meeting house was presented for vote on Sept. 5, 1791.

Bray's diary was discovered last year, according to The Associated Press, but the find was recently authenticated by Julian Pooley, the manager of the Surrey History Centre in England. A copy of Bray's diary is scheduled to be placed on display in the Surrey History Centre today.

John Thorn, the Kingston, N.Y., baseball historian who discovered Pittsfield's bylaw, said Bray's diary doesn't diminish the significance of Pittsfield's reference to the sport.

"The special thing about Pittsfield is that it's the first appearance in print regarding the sport in North America," Thorn said.

"The Bray find is a great one, but it has little if anything to do with Pittsfield, whose claim to fame is not that it is home to the earliest mention of baseball on the planet, but only in North America," he said.

Mayor James M. Ruberto said the city is "proud of the fact that here in North America, we retain the record of our position in the sport. Who knows? Someday they may find someone else talking about baseball in North America before 1791. But before that, Pittsfield holds the premier spot for the sport in North America."

Pittsfield's baseball bylaw has been on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame since it was made public in May 2004, one year after it was discovered by Thorn, who stumbled across it while doing research on the Internet. The bylaw, which was found in the Berkshire Athenaeum, predates the previous oldest mention of baseball in North America by 32 years.

It's not unusual to find earlier references to the game around the world, said Ted Spencer, the vice president and chief curator of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"Sitting next to the Pittsfield thing (in the Hall of Fame) is a hand-carved illustration done by monks in 1252," Spencer said. "They're playing ball."

There are two other references to baseball in England that predate Bray's diary, although Thorne said there "are scholarly quibbles to each of those." The first occurs in a woodcut illustration published in a children's book of poems in 1744, while the second is contained in a letter written in 1748.

A reference to Bray's diary — along with a second mention of "base ball" in England in 1755 — was contained in an article written by David Block of San Francisco that was published 11 months ago in the scholarly journal "Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game," Thorn said.

Bray's diary is also referenced in the documentary film "Base Ball Discovered," which was filmed in England last summer, Thorn said. The film premiered in Cleveland in July and will be aired next weekend at the Hall of Fame Film Festival in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The film includes a timeline that lists a reference to a bat and ball game being played by the ancient Egyptians in 1500 B.C.

Spencer said the Hall of Fame hopes to receive scanned copies of Bray's diary to put on display. The Hall would like to show the original but "it's so fragile and so old," he said.

"We could provide the environment for it, but just having a copy of it would be great," Spencer said.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224
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"Home emissions top list"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, September 15, 2008

PITTSFIELD — A new report has found that homeowners account for the biggest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the city.

The Green Commission recently received the document which shows in 2000, residences contributed to 46.5 percent of the emissions, followed by an industrial output of 21.7 percent, commercial at 21 percent, vehicle use at 9.4 percent and waste at 1.3 percent.

Mayor James M. Ruberto formed the nine-member panel several months ago to recommend ways all segments of Pittsfield can save energy and reduce emissions.

Board Chairman John Krol said the residential figure surprised many on the commission when it was recently presented to them.

"We tend to think of carbon emissions through commercial, industrial, and vehicles," Krol said.

Ward 4 City Councilor and commission member Michael L. Ward found the breakdown of emission sources made sense.

"It's not surprising," said Ward. "If you look at a map of the city there are many houses. Many are older homes, some of which are not energy efficient."

The report lists nine ways homeowners and those who rent can immediately reduce energy consumption, waste and save money.

They include using compact fluorescent light bulbs, installing a programmable thermostat for the furnace and leaving the water heater thermostat at 120, open shades on sunny winter days for natural light but draw them down at night to prevent heat loss through the windows, hang clothes out to dry when the weather allows, rather than use the dryer.

"The report shows everyone in Pittsfield — especially homeowners — have an opportunity to help out," said Krol. "The city can't do it alone."

Krol said he is having an energy audit done on the 48-year- old house he and his wife recently bought. They have already installed more energy efficient windows.

Ward's 74-year-old home needed a better heating system.

"The house I bought was built in 1934 and had the original boiler," said Ward. "It worked fine but used plenty of energy and we replaced it with a natural gas furnace."

While municipal buildings, vehicles, and employees account for a fraction of Pittsfield greenhouse gas emissions, the report encourages city government to lead by example.

"What the city does is symbolic, sending a message of our commitment to reduce emissions," said Krol.

The report also list nine ways city employees can be "greener", primarily using less printer paper and paper products and continue to recycle on the job.

Williams College student Chad Brown was a paid intern hired by Pittsfield to spend the summer preparing the report. It pointed to the municipal wastewater treatment facility having reduced emissions by 15 percent since 2005 by using less oil and electricity.

"Through grants and city funds we upgraded the plant's large motors," said Public Works & Utilities Commissioner Bruce I. Collingwood in explaining the cost savings.

Next on the green project agenda is a $1.7 million proposal to extract methane gas from the sludge to power turbines and generate 30 percent of the sewer plant's own electricity.

Collingwood said this would reduce the facility's dependence on the Western Massachusetts Electric Company.

"Estimated payback would be nine years, much less if we get grant money to defray some of the cost," he noted.

The report also noted the 66 percent reduction in traffic light emissions from 2005-07, as Public Works replaced incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient LED bulbs.

"Green projects are nothing new in Pittsfield," added Collingwood. "There's always been a drive to do such projects since I came on board six years ago."

The Green Commission will soon discuss more thoroughly the report at a yet-to-be scheduled meeting, according to Krol.

"We need to set a target for further emission reductions and reach out to the community," Krol added.

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Pittsfield, Massachusetts
"Action on cinemas: After nine-year wait, theater project is under way"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, September 19, 2008

PITTSFIELD — After nine years of working on a project that included innumerable stops and starts, city and state officials yesterday held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $22.4 million Beacon Cinemas on North Street.

"To me it seemed like this day would never come," said Richard Stanley of Egremont, the project's managing partner, during a ceremony on the McKay Street side of the historic Kinnell-Kresge building where the six cinemas will be located.

The removal of hazardous materials like asbestos from inside the building has already taken place, and demolition is scheduled to begin today, said Jim Culleton, a principal in Allegrone Construction. Culleton said plans call for the interior of the east side of the building to be historically maintained, while the west side will be completely gutted.

Construction is expected to take 15 months. The six-screen cinema complex is expected to open with the showing of a 3-D movie on Dec. 15, 2009, Stanley said. The cinema project was first proposed by Downtown Inc. in 1999.

Construction was originally expected to begin last year, but was delayed when the National Park Service determined that the design did not retain enough of the historic elements of the facade and entryway of the 90-year-old Kinnell-Kresge building at 49-59 North St. to qualify for $900,000 in federal historic tax credits.

The project was reconfigured and redesigned to include six cinemas with stadium-style seating along with some office and retail space. But the delay also sent the project's total cost skyrocketing from a projected estimate of $12.6 million to the current $22.4 million. The construction costs alone have soared 54 percent from $8.7 million two years ago to $13.4 million today.

"Frankly, I almost lost heart," said Stanley, who also owns the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington.

In February, the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, which is providing $7.7 million in equity through tax credits, advised that the financing for the project would need to close by June or its funding would no longer be available. MHIC funding makes up 38 percent of the project's total cost.

After the City Council approved an additional $1.1 million allocation from the GE Economic Development Fund in May, the city received an $825,000 state grant in June. In late July, City and state officials formally signed off on the complicated financing plan that includes city, state, federal and private funds.

Following the news conference, Mayor James M. Ruberto called the day "exhilarating."

"At points it was frustrating," he said. "But I think I once said I will be disappointed at things that happen as this project occurs, but I will never be discouraged. Because it was important to deal with some of the adversities in a realistic way to know that this project would be successfully concluded."

"Each time we ran into what could have been a roadblock, someone stepped forward," Ruberto added.

The project also includes $4.6 million in loans from five local financial institutions, $2.9 million from the city of Pittsfield, $2.8 million in current and future state historic tax credits, $1.5 million in community development funds, $800,000 in developer equity, and close to $300,000 in escrow interest.

The city will be repaid through two loans, although repayment of one loan doesn't begin until the cinema has been open for 11 years.

Berkshire Bank President Michael Daly, whose bank is one of the five financial lending institutions, said the cooperation of several individuals allowed the project to get this far.

"There's an enormous group of people who came together to build this puzzle," Daly said.

City officials say the cinema project will provide a direct economic impact of at least $2 million to downtown Pittsfield, and bring approximately $1.7 million in revenue to downtown restaurants and businesses.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, noted that he was still a senior in high school when the first task force to study the cinema project was formed in 1999.

"When my entire generation was in high school, we were told to pack up our bags, and don't come back," Downing said. "The next generation will never hear that again."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com (413) 496-6224
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"Coming soon — a theater"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Sunday, September 21, 2008

Developer Richard Stanley was assuredly not alone in thinking the day would never come when the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Beacon Cinemas on North Street (Eagle, Sept. 19). That day arrived last week, and construction of a key component of downtown's revival is officially underway.

The $22.4 million project, nine years in the making, is funded through a Byzantine financing plan including city, state, federal and private funds in the form of grants, donations, tax credits and loans. Objections on the part of the National Park Service prompted a redesign to protect historic elements of the 90-year-old Kinnell-Kresge building. Skyrocketing construction costs required an additional $1.1 million allocation from the GE Economic Development, which upon approval by the City Council triggered an $825,000 state grant. Setbacks and disappointments aside, all of the many partners in this project, from Mayor Ruberto, to the Council, to Mr. Stanley, to the five local lending institutions, to the legislative delegation, stuck together and brought the project within sight of the finish line.

The cinema complex, which will include six cinemas with stadium-style seating and is expected to open Dec. 15, 2009 with a 3-D movie, is not a savior for North Street, but if it can play a role similar to that of Mr. Stanley's Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington, it will be of considerable benefit to downtown. The theater will bring needed foot traffic to North Street, which will have a spin-off effect for existing restaurants and taverns and perhaps generate the appearance of more of each.

Hollywood is wrapping up a record-breaking summer at the box office, and while the economy worries everyone, the movie industry historically hangs on, and sometimes even thrives, during tough economic times. The DVD has killed off antiquated movie theaters, but those with state-of-the-art technology like the Beacon are doing well. There is good reason to believe that the Beacon Cinemas will be well worth the long wait.

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"City insurance pool deadline approaches"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, September 20, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials and the Public Employees Committee representing 17 municipal unions have one more shot at Pittsfield joining the state's Group Insurance Commission — and saving millions in health insurance premiums.

Both sides will meet again Tuesday after leaving the negotiating table Wednesday without a tentative agreement.

Yet they are a step closer to enlisting in the state-run Group Insurance Commission, or GIC, since talks began in mid-August.

"I'm an optimist and believe we can craft an agreement," said Scott Eldridge, president of the United Educators of Pittsfield, the city's largest union. "But we have to have an agreement that day."

Eldridge then needs to take a negotiated deal to his union members for a vote.

While the GIC requires coalition bargaining — all unions negotiating as one group — each one votes separately on joining the state insurance group. They all must approve the deal by a margin of at least 70 percent of a voted "weighted" along each union's membership.

"If we have a handshake next week, we'll figure out a way to meet the Oct. 1 deadline," said Mayor James M. Ruberto after Wednesday's bargaining session.

Pittsfield has until Oct. 1 to sign-up for fiscal 2010 to take advantage of millions in initial savings. The city could have saved $5.6 million had it joined the GIC in fiscal 2008, according to a study Pittsfield officials released in May.

The unionized municipal workers currently belong to Blue Cross Blue Shield, which Eldridge says is excellent health insurance.

"We recognize the city needs to save money," conceded Eldridge, "But if we do the city's latest proposal it would be injurious to our retirees."

He estimated Pittsfield has 800 to 850 retired city workers still receiving health benefits.

Eldridge said the unions made a reasonable counter offer to the city addressing the impact on retirees, the only major issue left to resolve.

Ruberto believes the city's latest offer benefits everyone.

"What we proposed shows the city has a sincere interest in providing all employees and retirees with good, sustainable insurance," said the mayor.

The GIC has administered health benefits for state employees and retirees since 1955. Last year, the state Legislature approved the Municipal Partnership Act, which allows cities and towns to join the GIC as part of the same risk pool, which has more than 294,000 members.

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"Pittsfield School Committee to alter format"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, September 19, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Timing is everything.

Pittsfield's MCAS results from the 2007-08 academic year will be publicly released next Wednesday, the same day the School Committee begins a new meeting format to focus, at length, on a single educational issue.

"It's just a coincidence the MCAS topic we chose for our first Committee of the Whole is occurring with the release of the tests scores," said Pittsfield Public School Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III.

The meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the library at Pittsfield High School.

The Committee of the Whole is scheduled to meet eight times through next June. No votes will be taken, as official decisions will be made at the tradition committee meetings.

"Committee of the Whole meetings will allow for more dialogue than is scheduled on a regular agenda," said Eberwein. "They will be more like subcommittee meetings."

School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso looks forward to more in depth discussions on issues often limited by time at a regular meeting.

"I, for one, felt I never had enough information when each school gave its improvement plan," said Amuso. "The schools work so hard to put those reports together."

Amuso and Eberwein see the new meeting format as one way the administration and school committee will be partners, moving Pittsfield education forward as a team.

School officials have yet to set the topics for future Committee of the Whole meetings.

The more informal gatherings are one of several ways the school committee wants to improve communication with the public, the administration and amongst itself. A quarterly newsletter, subcommittees giving reports, and more media exposure are other ways the school system will reach out to the community.

Pittsfield Public School Post is the name of the newsletter the school department will publish soon. During an interview with The Eagle, Eberwein and Amuso showed a draft of the PPS Post, as its referred to on the cover.

"The first issue will have information about new teachers, profiles of the new principals and it's printed on recycled paper," said Eberwein.

He noted only 500 copies will be printed and distributed to community gathering places throughout the city, hoping many more people will read it on-line.

Eberwein expects the newsletter to be a valuable resource.

"If a real estate agent wants a couple of copies to show possible new residents, it will provide real time information," added Eberwein.

Another school committee meeting change occurred at its Sept. 10 regular meeting, when subcommittee reports, were scheduled agenda item for the first time.

"People don't realize most of our work is done outside the regular meeting," said Amuso. "We are trying to do a better job of sharing information amongst ourselves and with the public."

Eberwein is working with Pittsfield Community Television to get more subcommittee meetings on the air.

"We have a consistent following on PCTV," said Eberwein, "I'm really amazed people watch."

The committee will also continue with individual school presentations at regular meetings. Students and teachers give an example of what they are doing in the classroom, showcasing their talents.

"The presentations have brought parents to committee meetings who would normally not show up," said Amuso.

She is aware many residents follow school committee meetings on PCTV, but encourages more people to attend.

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"MCAS: Target scores out of reach"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau
Saturday, September 20, 2008

BOSTON — Schools throughout the state are struggling to bring test scores for all students up to speed fast enough to meet federal guidelines, including 17 schools from Berkshire County identified yesterday as needing to improve.

The moving target for public schools charged with bringing all students to proficiency levels by 2014 under the federal No Child Left Behind Act has left about 50 percent of all Massachusetts schools on the list.

A total of 828 schools throughout the state are failing to make "adequate yearly progress," according to statistics released yesterday by the Department of Education based on 2008 MCAS scores, including 214 schools that made the list for the first time this year.

Almost 80 percent of those new schools came from non-urban districts, a strong indicator that even wealthier suburbs are struggling to meet expectations.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said it was not surprising that more schools this year failed to make adequate yearly progress given the rate at which the bar is rising.

"We do not take the accountability status of any school or district lightly, but we also do not consider the schools to be failures," Chester said. "Across the Commonwealth are examples of districts and schools that have not met federal targets but have made great progress academically and, while they have more work to do, are clearly moving in the right direction."

In Pittsfield, six schools were identified as in need of some corrective action, including Pittsfield High School and the Reid and Herberg middle schools. All the schools identified for improvement on the list have been on it in years past — some for more than six years. That pattern typically reflects the performance of small groups within the overall student population that could include low-income students or students with limited English proficiency.

Pittsfield Superintendent Howard J. Eberwein III said the city has been working to improve its scores for years by focusing on instruction with academic coaches to work with teachers and assessment systems to monitor student progress throughout the year and offer additional help where needed.

"We know it's a challenge, but in a lot of ways for us it's motivation and makes us think more innovatively about how we can help children," he said. "In many ways, this is a narrow measure."

Eberwein said the increase in suburban districts now struggling to meet AYP goals shows that the whole state may have problems achieving the benchmarks laid out under No Child Left Behind.

"A lot of schools are in status, so what can we do?" he said. "It's a great ideal that we shouldn't expect anything less than 100 percent, but the reality is how to we adjust when our students don't get there."

The multi-tiered system for labeling underperforming schools and district starts when a school fails to make adequate yearly progress two years in a row in either English Language Arts or mathematics, earning that school a status label of "In need of improvement." That identification enables parents to request that their child be moved to another higher performing school within the district if space is available.

After four years, the school is moved into "corrective action," which could require the school to make significant changes including staff, curriculum or instruction.

Five or more years of inadequate performance results in a "restructuring" designation that could force the school to be put under state oversight.

The Department of Education, in response the growing number of districts in need, announced plans to reorganize some of its efforts to provide local school administrators greater support in identifying best practices, instructional models and assistance implementing long-term improvement plans.

"We have one of the nation's most challenging assessments and have set high standards for every child, but with good reason. Every one of our students deserves a top-notch education and to be properly prepared for college, career and life in the 21st century," Chester said. "These AYP results serve to highlight where we still have more work to do."
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To reach Matt Murphy: mmurphy@lowellsun.com
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"Half of schools in Massachusetts fall short: Federal standards getting tougher"
By David Abel, (Boston) Globe Staff, September 20, 2008

Half of all Massachusetts public schools this year failed to meet achievement standards established by the state under the No Child Left Behind Act.

That includes 100 of 143 public schools in Boston, according to a report released yesterday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The number of underachieving schools rose sharply from last year, when 37 percent failed to meet performance standards under the federal law.

Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester said the schools aren't getting worse - federal guidelines are getting tougher.

"Under the federal accountability system that raises the bar each year, it's not surprising that more of our schools have been identified," Chester said. But he added the new data "serve to highlight where we still have more work to do."

The results will require schools to consider a range of actions, ranging from replacing staff to changing the curriculum to rethinking budget priorities. In the most severe cases, the 277 schools that have failed to meet federal standards for five years will be designated for various measures of restructuring, which in some cases could lead to lengthened school days, fewer union restrictions, or greater state oversight.

Under No Child Left Behind, all students must reach proficiency in English and math by 2014. The law, signed into effect in 2002, leaves it to each state to define its own standard of "proficiency" and measure how well schools are progressing toward that target.

Massachusetts established a system that requires students to score in one of the top two MCAS test categories - advanced or proficient - to meet that standard. It also established annual benchmarks that require an ever-increasing percentage of students at each school to score at that level each year.

Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said this system is much more aggressive in its timetables for reaching goals than those in other states and accounts for the rising number of underperforming schools.

And it will only get more difficult, he said, as the 2014 deadline approaches.

"Ultimately, we expect as many as 80 percent of schools not to meet the standards," Koocher said. "Massachusetts has chosen the highest accountability standard in the country. It's a mathematically impossible threshold. It creates a system where more and more schools fail to make adequate progress.

The schools are judged on overall student performance as well as the performance of subgroups based on race/ethnicity, family income level, and special education.

If a school or one of its subgroups fails to meet standards for two consecutive years, the state identifies the school as "needing improvement" and allows parents to request their children be transferred to better-performing schools in their district. If problems continue for an additional two years, the school is designated as requiring "corrective action," meaning the schools must make significant changes that could include staffing, curriculum, or teaching philosophy.

The mandate to "restructure" comes after five substandard years. In such cases, the state might lean on schools to take drastic action and operate under the close supervision of state education officials. Reversing that status takes two consecutive years of score improvements.

This year, 137 schools require overall restructuring, up from 77 last year. There were 140 additional schools that require restructuring because of underperforming subgroups, up from 114 last year.

In Boston, where the number of underperforming schools rose 6 percent, 34 schools require overall restructuring, up from 19 last year. Another 13 schools require restructuring as a result of lagging subgroups, up from 11 last year.

"It is clear we must increase our focus on schools that have not reached all of their targets - including some that fell short by a very narrow margin, or those cited for improvement among only one or two student subgroups," Boston's school superintendent, Carol R. Johnson, said in a statement.

She said the state figures do not reflect successes at many underperforming schools. "We believe that there are impressive success stories among schools in corrective action and restructuring, just as there are impressive success stories among schools in good standing."

But she added, "We cannot be satisfied until every school in Boston is in good standing, and until every student achieves proficiency."

Chester said the department will revamp the program that helps schools and districts meet the standards, focusing on curriculum and instruction, as well as leadership.

"We do not take the accountability status of any school or district lightly, but we also do not consider the schools to be failures," said Chester.

The report shows that middle schools especially had trouble. Seventy-five percent of middle schools in the state were considered underperforming, compared with 25 percent of high schools and 45 percent of elementary schools.

Fifty-one percent of underperforming schools this year are in nonurban districts. For example, Oak Bluffs, Lincoln, and Dover were among the 16 districts identified as not meeting standards this year for the first time due to underperforming subgroups.

"In a study we did four years ago, we anticipated that high-performing school districts would not be meeting standards," said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.

"We should take another look at how we evaluate schools."

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"MCAS Exam: Target missed; strides made"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, September 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — While six schools in the Pittsfield Public School system failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress — or AYP — in the 2007-08 academic year, some of those schools are making progress nonetheless.

Morningside Elementary School was among the six not meeting AYP standards, yet it had greatly improved test scores.

"Your English language arts scores are cause for celebration," Deputy Superintendent Barbara Malkas said last night during a Pittsfield School Committee meeting.

The 15 Morningside students in attendance then let out a loud cheer.

"This is a proud night for us," said Principal Joseph Curtis. "After allot of years of bad publicity, we're finally on the upside."

School administrators spent the entire meeting explaining the AYP reports for the city's 12 schools. The principal goal of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, AYP shows the progress schools are making toward all students being proficient in English and math by the year 2014. The state MCAS test scores from last spring are used to determine if a school and its district are getting closer to the proficiency goal.

Pittsfield High School is also making progress in math, according to Principal Christopher Sposato, but again not at the pace expected by AYP standards.

Sposato and Curtis both noted in a letter to parents that failing to meet AYP does not mean a failing school.

Conte and Crosby elementary schools and Reid and Herberg middle schools round out the list of city schools whose test scores failed to meet targets set for 2008.

However, Mayor James M. Ruberto was particularly concerned with the results at Conte and Morningside, which indicate the schools have the furthest to go to meet AYP standards by 2014.

"I can't say how disappointed I am with the scores," said Ruberto. "If this isn't a warning sign, I don't know what is."

Several principals and Malkas identified several ways teachers and staff are helping students learn and boost test scores. They include academic coaches, intervention programs, and in-house assessment tools to measure progress.

"There's not one response for each child, no magic pill to get a child to improve," said Malkas.

School Committee member Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. repeatedly asked when school officials would know if any of the action steps to help the children are working.

He finally got an answer.

"We can give you quarterly updates," Malkas replied. "I can come back in early November with a report."

The six underperforming schools are not the only ones with their work cut out for them.

Malkas said the six keeping pace with the AYP will find it tougher to do in the next six years.

"As we get closer to 2014, performance targets will be harder to reach," added Malkas, "When you do well, your improvement target is higher the next year."

Allendale, Capeless, Egremont, Stearns and Williams elementary schools and Taconic High School face that challenge.

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Taconic High School sophomore Tyler Hamilton retrieves books from his locker before class yesterday afternoon. (Darren Vanden Berge / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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"High school building needs: Vision taking shape"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission last night approved Statements of Interest for both Pittsfield and Taconic high schools — the first step in seeking state funding toward some type of a high school building project.

The commission also voted 11-2 to give Taconic priority over Pittsfield High simply because the Massachusetts School Building Authority — or SBA — requires the designation.

"We are making a choice only to move the process forward," said Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who co-chairs the commission. "We are not picking one body of students over another."

The statements reflect Pittsfield educators' vision of high school learning as integrated career-technical/vocational programs and core academic courses and cooperative learning of the arts, physical education, and life-long wellness with academics.

The documents now go to the Pittsfield School Committee and City Council for their endorsement, before they can be filed by the Nov. 15 deadline.

The commission, however, did not take a stand on whether the city should have a single high school campus or continue with the two current educational facilities.

Mayor James M. Ruberto has touted a high school merger. Ward 2 City Councilor Louis Costi, a commission member, said the statements send that message.

"I disagree," said John Krol, another commission member. "This sets up a situation where we are flexible as a community (as to) what decision we make."

The commission agreed the issue should have plenty of community discussion in the months to come.

The Statements of Interest detail how Pittsfield High, built in 1930, and Taconic High, erected in 1969, would not meet the educational needs of the 21st century even if they receive the needed renovations

"The configuration of Taconic, not its condition, is the key to keep in mind what kind of high school we need in the future," said Principal Douglas McNally during a tour of Taconic prior to the commission meeting. "The layout does meet the needs as envisioned."

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Pittsfield schools
"Educational quandary: Building plan sought for city high schools"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, September 29, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Amanda Meier's first full-time teaching job has her educating young minds about chemistry at Taconic High School this fall. Her small laboratory was recently renovated with new countertops, sinks and cabinets that students use to conduct their experiments.

But the lab also doubles as the classroom requiring the teenagers to stand for the entire 50 minute period as there's no room for chairs and desks.

"The closeness helps the students have easy access to their peers," said Meier, who was recently working in her classroom after school while her boss, Principal Douglas McNally, was giving a tour of the building.

"But you can't change the configuration and if I could, I would have the classroom separate from the lab," added Meier, who worked at Greenfield High School last year when they had such separation.

There in lies the problem of Taconic being a high school for 21st century education in Pittsfield, according to McNally.

"The configuration, not the condition of Taconic, is the key to keep in mind when discussing the school's future," said McNally prior to last Monday's meeting of the city's School Building Needs Commission.

"The (schools) are tired and needs major renovation," said the city's Building Maintenance Director Ernest Fortini referring to both Pittsfield High School and Taconic during the meeting. "But there's nothing I can do to make the buildings fit the programs."

How education is taught in the future at both Taconic and Pittsfield High are outlined in Statements of Interest, which the commission approved last week. If the Pittsfield School Committee and City Council endorse the documents, they will be sent to the state School Building Authority so the city can be considered for state funding toward some kind of a significant high school project.

The commission did not endorse building a single new high school, as supported by Mayors James M. Ruberto and as suggested by a team of consultants in a report unveiled in May. The panel is leaving that debate, right now, up to the general public, but they will eventually endorse a specific building proposal.

"We're jumping the gun on just one school," said Pittsfield Public School Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein II, co-chair of the commission. "We could have one campus with multiple schools."

Commission member Pamela Malumphy said during the meeting that the panel should have made a recommendation now.

The Statements of Interest claim neither Pittsfield nor Taconic high schools are designed to deliver vocational, fine arts and core academic classes like English, math, and science in a collaborative manner, as envisioned by the school department. The two secondary schools right now segregate these disciplines, because that's how the buildings are laid out.

"It's difficult to have collaboration between a physics teacher and a vocational program, because they are in separate wings," McNally said about Taconic.

"Our graphic arts should be close to our visual arts, but the teachers need a bull horn to reach each other," added McNally.

Eberwein, who taught biology and chemistry at Taconic for eight years followed by a four-year stint as principal at Pittsfield High, said the new high school(s) need flexibility.

"We're not sure what education will be in 20 years," said Eberwein. "Look at how technology has changed things the last 20 years, the next 20 could have a whole new set of technology."

McNally noted Taconic can't significantly expand its technology any further without a major upgrade in the building's 40 year old electrical system.

If Pittsfield does build one or more new high schools, history will repeat itself.

Pittsfield High School was erected in 1930, just as the Great Depression began its stranglehold on the U.S. Today's economic situation is less severe, but just as scary as the high school building debate heats up.

"People are scared (about the economy), they say we need to wait," said Tricia Farley-Bouvier, the other co-chair of the commission.

"But this is exactly the time to plan new buildings so when the economy does improve, we'll be ready," concluded Farley-Bouvier.

Convincing taxpayers of long range planning is difficult when they are running short of funds right now.

"I've had nothing but complaints," said Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi referring to the constituents he's talked to about whether to build anew. "They see this purely about tax dollars."

"Personally, we should keep Taconic and Pittsfield High and renovate them," added Costi who serves on the School Building Needs Commission, but does not speak for the entire City Council.

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"Insurance pool talks at impasse"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials and representatives from Pittsfield's 17 public employee unions suddenly broke off talks yesterday regarding the municipal workers switching to a state-run health insurance system.

The two sides began negotiating in August on a way the Group Insurance Commission — or GIC — could replace Blue Cross Blue Shield as the health insurance plan for city employees and save taxpayers millions in paying for their health care costs.

Both sides blamed each other for leaving the potential savings on the bargaining table.

"We had a chance to save city taxpayers $2.7 million, but the unions turned down an opportunity for all of us to save money," said Mayor James M. Ruberto.

"This is my most disappointing day since being mayor," added Ruberto.

'We couldn't believe it'

Scott Eldridge, president of the 596-member United Educators of Pittsfield, the city's largest union, was equally stunned a deal wasn't reached.

"We couldn't believe it, " said Eldridge, vice chairman of he Public Employees Committee, a coalition bargaining group formed just for the GIC negotiations.

"I was optimistic going into the meeting; in fact, everyone was ready to vote yes," added Eldridge.

The city and the unions were both confident a deal could be reached yesterday and meet an Oct. 1 deadline to join the state program in time for Fiscal Year 2010.

The two sides greatly differ on why the negotiations suddenly went south.

Eldridge said the union representatives and city officials began the early afternoon meeting reviewing a plan where the city and the workers share equally in estimated $5 million dollars in savings by joining the GIC. He said it then turned to a 70-30 percent split in favor of Pittsfield.

"Everything came crashing down, and at the expense of retirees," said Eldridge who noted certain health insurance co-payments would double, even quadruple for retirees if Pittsfield joined the GIC.

"That's a union spin," replied Ruberto. "This is about competitive benefits, not splitting a pot."

Ruberto said the city's offer had all 1,500 union workers paying 15 percent of their health insurance. The GIC has state workers currently paying 20 percent.

'We could make it happen'

"I wanted to create a rate structure that was more than competitive to the GIC and was fair to the city, the taxpayers, and the employees," added Ruberto.

Despite the acrimonious tone by both parties, the unions are willing to try again.

"If (the city) called us tomorrow and said 'We'll take you up on your proposal', we could make it happen," said Eldridge, referring to meeting the Oct. 1 deadline.

More than 294,000 members

The GIC has administered health benefits for state employees and retirees since 1955. Last year, the state Legislature approved the Municipal Partnership Act, which allows cities and towns to join the GIC as part of the same risk pool, which has more than 294,000 members.

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"Pittsfield, Union Talks Break Down Over Insurance Savings"
Staff reports -iBerkshires/Berkshire News Network- September 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Negotiations for the city's 17 bargaining units to join the state's insurance plan broke down Tuesday over how to share the potential savings.

In a statement, union leaders expressed disappointment in the city's decision to abandon plans to enroll in the Group Insurance Commission and save the city and its employees an estimated $5 million in annual health care costs.

"We are extremely disappointed in the city's actions," said Scott Eldridge, president of the 596-member United Educators of Pittsfield and vice chairman of the committee of public employees formed to negotiate with city officials, in the statement. "The city has walked away from millions of dollars in annual savings. Money that could and should be spent on our public schools, roads and bridges, and other vital services."

However, Mayor James M. Ruberto told The Berkshire Eagle that the negotiations were about competitive benefits, "not splitting the pot."

"We had a chance to save city taxpayers $2.7 million, but the unions turned down an opportunity for all of us to save money," Ruberto to The Eagle.

The city and unions have until Oct. 1 to hammer out an agreement that would allow the switch from Blue Cross Blue Shield next fiscal year.

The state opened enrollment in the GIC to towns and cities last year to help with rising health insurance rates as part of Gov. Deval Patrick's Municipal Partnership Act. The GIC covers nearly 300,000 state employees, including the state college system.

North Adams' seven bargaining units have been clamoring to switch from Blue Cross Blue Shield to GIC, citing lower premiums and savings in the millions for the city. City councilors and Mayor John Barrett III said any decision would have to wait until next year — and after the proposal has been more thoroughly reviewed.

Barrett was concerned how the city's retirees would fare under the plan — sticking point for Pittsfield as well.

Union negotiators had proposed a 50/50 split of the proposed savings to support the increased costs to retirees; the city countered with a 70/30 split in Pittsfield's favor but would have reduced workers' share of the premiums to 15 percent.

Both sides said they were willing to go back to the bargaining table.
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Information for this article was provided by the Berkshire News Network, Radio Stations WNAW/WUPE, news partners of iBerkshires.
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Below is the statement from the public employee committee created to bargain with the city:

"UNIONS DISAPPOINTED WITH CITY’S DECISION TO WALK AWAY FROM MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN HEALTH CARE SAVINGS"

PITTSFIELD – Union leaders today expressed disappointment in the city’s decision to abandon plans to enroll municipal employees in the state’s health insurance system – which has the potential to save the City of Pittsfield and its employees an estimated $5 million in annual health care costs.

Negotiations between city officials and union leaders over whether Pittsfield employees should enroll in the Group Insurance Commission broke off earlier today when the two sides split on the issue of health care for retirees.

“We are extremely disappointed in the city’s actions,” said Scott Eldridge, president of the 596-member United Educators of Pittsfield and vice chairman of the committee of public employees formed to negotiate the GIC option with city officials. “The city has walked away from millions of dollars in annual savings – Money that could and should be spent on our public schools, roads and bridges, and other vital services.

“What is most disappointing is that the city took the position that the savings should be split evenly between the employees and the city,” Eldridge added. “We made an offer that did that, which the city rejected and then followed up with a proposal to keep nearly 70% of the savings at the expense of the retirees.”

City officials and representatives from the city’s 17 public employee unions and a retiree representative began meeting in August to discuss the option of enrolling city employees in the Group Insurance Commission, which provides benefits to more than 294,000 employees statewide. Negotiations ended today after city officials rejected the latest proposal presented by the public employees unions.

The public employee committee’s most recent proposal would have maintained retiree benefits without any additional premium costs. The plan put forth by city officials required retirees to pay up to $420 more a year in insurance premiums and significantly more in co-payments and deductibles.

“It is our hope that representatives for the city will return to the table and resume negotiations for joining the GIC,” said Pamela Delmolino, who is chair of the public employees committee and president of the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees, Local 1315, School Secretaries Union. “This is a worthwhile pursuit, but we can’t strike a deal at the expense of our retirees, who are our most vulnerable citizens.”

Union leaders representing 1,500 Pittsfield municipal employees formally voted in August to establish a public employee committee, an important step toward coalition bargaining. A law, signed by Governor Deval Patrick last year, allows local unions and their communities to jointly determine whether membership in the GIC would best serve employees and reduce health insurance costs.

Research done by a Boston-based health care consulting firm and the Pittsfield City Council Ad-Hoc Health Insurance Committee estimates that there was a potential $5.2 to $5.6 million annual savings by enrolling city employees in the Group Insurance Commission.

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"Make GIC membership happen"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Thursday, September 25, 2008

The breakdown of talks between Pittsfield officials and representatives of the city's 17 public employee unions over switching to a state-run health insurance plan recalls the bad days of not that long ago when good ideas were shot down for no good reason, leaving all parties involved to point fingers at one another. Residents have a right to expect better.

Negotiations began last month on finding a way to replace Blue Cross Blue Shield as the health insurer for city employees with the Group Insurance Commission, which largely because of its substantial membership, can negotiate lower rates for state workers as well as the city and town workers around the state who were declared eligible to join by the Legislature last year with the governor's support. Mayor Ruberto estimates that membership in the GIC would save city taxpayers $2.7 million.

That both the city and union officials were surprised by the impasse suggests that, harsh words aside, they cannot be that far apart. Scott Eldridge, vice president of the Public Employees Committee, told The Eagle that union negotiators would be glad to resume talks and "make it happen" before the October 1 deadline for joining the GIC. There's still time for the parties to resolve their differences, and if it doesn't happen, voters may not feel charitable to those on either side of the table.

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"Ruberto tries to revive insurance negotiations"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, September 27, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Mayor James M. Ruberto said yesterday he is inviting representatives of the city's 17 public employee unions to meet one more time in a last-ditch effort to switch municipal workers to a state-run health insurance system by next week's deadline.

Talks between the city and the unions about joining the state-run Group Insurance Commission began in August, but broke off suddenly on Tuesday — exactly one week before the Oct. 1 deadline the state has set for communities to join the GIC for fiscal 2010.

Both sides have blamed each other for leaving $2.7 million in savings the city would realize by joining the GIC on the bargaining table.

"I'm still hopeful that we're going to move forward," Ruberto said.

Ruberto said he contacted union representatives on Thursday and planned to meet with them yesterday and again on Monday about the possibility of scheduling a final negotiation session.

The municipal employee unions are required to negotiate with the city as one group, instead of separately, a process that is known as coalition bargaining. The Public Employees Committee consists of representatives of Pittsfield's 17 collective bargaining units, plus one member who represents retired city employees.

"What I wanted each union head to understand is that I would consider the opportunity to once again speak to them as a group so that we could hopefully take the emotion out of the air, and have an opportunity for them to consider what I feel is a very fair and generous offer on the part of the city," Ruberto said.

For Pittsfield to join the GIC, the collective bargaining units have to agree to the measure by a margin of at least 70 percent of a vote "weighted" along each union's membership.

Based on its membership, the United Educators of Pittsfield, or teachers union, makes up 40 percent of the weighted vote as the largest collective bargaining unit.

Scott Eldredge, president of the teachers union, was scheduled to speak with Ruberto late yesterday afternoon.

Before meeting with Ruberto, Eldredge said the teachers union would be in favor of another meeting.

"Absolutely," Eldredge said.

He said the unions never said they wanted to stop negotiating, but broke off talks on Tuesday because they believed the city had presented its final offer.

"That's why we turned it down," he said.

"I thought we were going to reach an agreement at the last one," Eldredge said, referring to Tuesday's negotiating session. "I thought we were in agreement before."

According to Ruberto, the two sides are only about $1 million apart. The main sticking point, according to Ruberto, is the Public Employee Committee's position that the city pay for Medicare Plan B, a health program that the city — and the GIC — currently don't subsidize.

"The problem is if we subscribe to the GIC the premiums go down a lot, but the co-pays go up immensely," Eldredge said.

According to Ruberto, the unions want to the city to pay 85 percent of Medicare Plan B, which would leave municipal employees responsible for the remaining 15 percent.

Eldredge said the unions have asked the city to pick up a portion of Medicare Plan B — something that he said has been done by other communities — to ease the burden on retired employees. According to Eldredge, the city has 400 retired employees with pensions of less than $10,000, and some whose pensions are even lower.

Ruberto said he is reaching out to the unions now because "I do see very difficult financial times ahead" for the city.

On Wednesday, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill told The Boston Globe that that state must take dramatic steps, such as borrowing at a higher interest rate or taking $310 million out of the state's rainy day fund, to make sure it has enough money to make local aid payments that are due next week to state communities.

The GIC has administered health benefits for state employees and retirees since 1955. The Legislature last year approved the Municipal Partnership Act, which allows cities and towns to join the same risk pool, which has almost 294,000 members.

Following a three-month study, a group of city officials announced in May that Pittsfield could have saved $5.6 million in fiscal 2008 if it had joined the state insurance pool.
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 496-6224.
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Readers' Comment:

By "amandavives", on September 27, 2008, --

So the reason the bargaining unions are against this, is because it places a burden on the retired worker to make higher co-pays, makes sense to me. I would not re-negotiate, thats what a union is all about, protecting the rights of not only active members, but also, retired workers on a fixed income. The mayor seems to forget that he is the CEO of the city, and it is his duty to provide incentives for businesses to locate here, so people can work, earn. and afford there taxes, instead, his approach is to put the burden on the workers to save money for the city. Pretty soon people, even the ones that can afford the taxes in this city, are going to live outside of Pittsfield, anyway. Before I left, the quality of life here is not as great as one might think, socially and economically it has deteriorated ,property taxes are up, good paying jobs are obsolete, (unless you know someone), and crime is skyrocketing. When Ruberto defeated Sarah Hathaway, all I heard about was this 'roladex he had', whatever happened to that 'roladex', it seems to have vanished like a fart in the wind. Defeat this proposal for the sake of our retired workers, who won't be able to afford GIC (co-pays will be to high to leverage) and who are currently being taxed out of there homes, already. Mr. Mayor, with all due respect, retired workers cannot afford this plan, find alternative ways to produce revenues without burdening the retired worker.

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"Unions must help city save on costs"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, September 27, 2008

After reading Wednesday's article in The Eagle relating to the insurance pool (GIC) impasse, I am confused.

Mayor Ruberto states, "We had a chance to save the taxpayers $2.7 million, but the unions turned down an opportunity for all of us to save money."

Scott Eldridge said that the union and city met to review a plan where workers and the union would share equally in an estimated $5 million savings. He said that it turned into a 70-30 split in favor of Pittsfield and the union objects.

I really do not know the magnitude of the actual savings, but I do strongly believe that all savings that would result from changing to the Group Insurance Commission should go back to the taxpayers in the city. I would hope that the union would not prevent the city from obtaining a major reduction in cost.

NICHOLAS BORASKI
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"Make GIC happen"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Monday, September 29, 2008

We hope that Pittsfield's 17 public employee unions will meet one more time to discuss the city's proposal to join the state-run Group Insurance Commission (GIC), as requested by Mayor James Ruberto, and we expect an agreement will be reached by Wednesday's deadline. There is simply too much at stake, for taxpayers, union members and the city as a whole, for that not to happen.

It is encouraging that Scott Eldredge, president of the United Educators of Pittsfield, which is the city's largest union, has expressed his support for another meeting. The respective parties' disagreement over who caused the talks to break down will be irrelevant if a deal is struck, as it should be.

The GIC's large membership numbers give it a stability that Pittsfield doesn't currently enjoy in providing health insurance to its employees, and that stability will have tangible benefits to Pittsfield. The cost swings that plague City Hall would be reduced or eliminated. That stability would enable the city to bring down its unfunded insurance liability and boost its bond rating. Perhaps most significantly, with state financial aid jeopardized by the ramifications of the Wall Street meltdown and subsequent bailout, the city would save money on its largest line item if it joins the GIC, freeing up money for contract negotiations and anticipated shortfalls in revenue from Boston. According to the mayor, joining the GIC will save the city roughly $2.7 million, a significant sum.

The sides are about $1 million apart, with about three-quarters of that resulting from the Public Employee Committee's position that the city should pay for Medicare Plan B, which the city does not currently cover and is not covered by the GIC either. That is too much to ask of the city given current economic realities, and while joining the GIC may require some union concessions, employees in the private sector have already made similar concessions of their own. Joining the GIC, however, will enable city employees to benefit from that program's stability as well, while giving them a fine health care plan that will be the envy of many city residents working in the private sector.

Union members must also consider the welfare of the city they work in. If GIC membership frees up money for contracts and enables the city to avoid layoffs should state aid be reduced, they benefit along with taxpayers. GIC is a great opportunity that came along when most needed, and by Wednesday, the city and its unions should be signing up in Boston.

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"Mayor Ruberto makes last minute effort for state health insurance programs": Pittsfield Major James Ruberto is making a last ditch effort to switch municipal workers to a state-run health insurance system by its October 1st deadline.

Video:

http://capitalnews9.com/content/headlines/124969/mayor-ruberto-makes-last-minute-effort-for-state-health-insurance-programs/Default.aspx

"Mayor Ruberto makes last minute effort for state health insurance programs"
Pittsfield Major James Ruberto is making a last ditch effort to switch municipal workers to a state-run health insurance system by its October 1st deadline.
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"Mayor Ruberto makes last minute effort for state health insurance programs
Updated: Monday, 09/29/2008, 7:29 AM, By: Web Staff, Capital News 9, Albany, NY

PITTSFIELD, M.A. -- Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto is making a last ditch effort to switch municipal workers to a state-run health insurance system by its October 1st deadline.

The Berkshire Eagle reports Ruberto will meet with representatives of the city's 17 public employee unions tomorrow.

Talks between the city and the unions about joining the state-run Group Insurance Commission began in August, but broke off suddenly on Tuesday.

Both sides are blaming each other for leaving nearly $3 million in savings the city would realize by joining the GIC on the bargaining table.

The main sticking point is the Public Employee Committee's position that the city pays for Medicare Plan B, but that health plan is currently not subsidized by the city and the GIC.

The unions want the city to pay 85 percent of Medicare Plan B, which would leave municipal employees responsible for the remaining 15 percent.

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"Parking scofflaws given reprieve"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, September 29, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Downtown parking scofflaws in Pittsfield have a one-month reprieve from Mayor James M. Ruberto.

The mayor's office has delayed until Nov. 1 the strict enforcement of the new ordinance requiring drivers to move their vehicles a minimum of one block after spending the maximum time allowed in a 90-minute, two-hour, or three-hour parking space.

The crack down on motorists who attempt to use short-term parking for all day use was to begin on Wednesday.

The mayor had a change of heart to give motorists another month to change their parking habits.

Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi, who petitioned fellow councilors in June for the change, wants enforcement to begin now.

"We should do it right away as this has been hanging over us long enough," said Costi.

"The important thing is to do something," he added.

Costi had several businesses complaining to him that some people who work in downtown Pittsfield were abusing the previous parking ordinance.

The parking regulation change governs on street parking only. Last week, the mayor's office had stated the three timed spaces in the city parking lots and garages were also covered by the ordinance, but that proved to be erroneous information.

Costi and the mayor's office are encouraging those who need all day parking to buy a parking lot pass form the Department of Public Works and Utilities in the basement of City Hall. Call (413) 499-9330 for more information.
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Dick Lindsay can be reached at (413) 496-6233 or rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.
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"Case hasn't been made for GIC"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recently we have seen articles concerning the possible savings for the city if the unions join the Group Insurance Commission. Has the city really sold or adequately explained this to the employees?

I am a retired employee, and the city and the union both have failed on both these issues. There was one meeting held which was mostly one-sided with very shallow explanations of the GIC. The city is going from one provider — with options that people have had for a few years and understand — to a state plan that has between five to eight policies and is very confusing, to say the least.

One thing that was lacking at the explanation meeting was a representative from Blue Cross and Blue Shield to compare its policy to the policies offered by the GIC. I remember the last time the city dropped Blue Cross and Blue shield and raved about the new company we switched to, and we all know where that got us.

The policies offered by the state each have varied co-pays, minimum payment requirements and different medicine deductions. What looks good on paper, can be a nightmare when you have to deal with it. Yes, you may save money if you are not sick and never go to the hospital. Get sick or a few visits to the emergency room and watch the savings disappear.

The city's bottom line is the money it will save, the union's bottom line is what can it get for negotiations in a contract year. The Eagle stated that there are 800 retirees, 400 with pensions below $10,000. Retirees have no way to financially compensate for any added costs in their health insurance, in heating fuel, gasoline and food.

How can anyone vote on a plan that has not been adequately explained to anyone, and (a plan that) the people who will be drastically affected have very little say?

JOHN FITZGERALD
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

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"City, unions reach accord"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, October 01, 2008

PITTSFIELD — City officials and the Public Employees Committee representing 17 unions and municipal retirees have reached a tentative agreement for Pittsfield to join the state-run Group Insurance Commission — or GIC.

"This truly represents the kind of partnership the city must have with its employees," said Mayor James M. Ruberto. "The deal is a win-win situation."

If the individual unions approve the deal, Ruberto said the city expects to save $2.7 million and the workers about $2 million.

"The $2.7 million is an estimate, an assumption," added Ruberto. "But it's money needed to re-invest into employee salaries."

The Public Employees Committee also understood the importance of saving taxpayers money.

"I know some people see the unions as greedy, wanting to take every dime," said committee vice chairman Scott Eldridge, president of United Educators of Pittsfield. "But we want the city to have money to fix the schools, fix the roads."

The proposal to switch from Blue Cross Blue Shield to the GIC for health insurance coverage is a done deal if all 17 collective bargaining units agree to the measure by a margin of at least 70 percent of a vote "weighted" along each union's membership.

Based on its membership the teachers union makes up 40 percent of the weighted vote and is the largest collective bargaining unit.

Today was the deadline to submit a union ratified agreement to the GIC so Pittsfield could be considered for fiscal 2010, but Ruberto expects a deadline extension now that a deal is in the works.

"I am comfortable to say the GIC will provide a seven-day window of opportunity to join," said Ruberto. "If we have to, we'll drive the paperwork to Boston by Oct. 8."

Eldridge said his 600 member union would need more than a week to review the proposal before voting on it.

"I don't want people feeling pressured or they may end up voting no," added Eldridge.

He hoped to get more information as to how long the GIC will wait for the unions to ratify the tentative agreement.

The main stumbling block that tripped up both sides last week when negotiations broke off was the impact the GIC would have on retired city workers. They currently pay just 10 percent of their health insurance premiums and the city pays the other 90 percent.

And the city looks to keep it that way.

"The city agreed to seek a special act of the Legislature to grandfather the retirees at ten percent," said Ruberto. "The key over the last week was the city listened and was amiable to protecting retirees."

Ruberto said the special act is necessary because the GIC would require the retirees to pay the same 85-15 split all active city employees would pay if the deal is finalized. The current split is 80-20 under Blue Cross.

Eldridge said more than 70 percent of the committee thought the deal was a "good one for current employees and OK for the retirees."

The Public Employees Committee thought they would have a deal last Tuesday, but when talks suddenly broke down, the rhetoric began to fly, with each side accusing the other of leaving millions of dollars in savings on the bargaining table.

Once emotions settled down, Ruberto said, he wanted to try one more time to reach an agreement.

"The union leaders were generous to allow me to personally invite them back to negotiate," said Ruberto.

The unions accepted the invite knowing what was at stake.

"We recognized health care costs are escalating," said Eldridge. "But this deal would be a short-term fix until the country as a whole comes up with a comprehensive plan to solve the problem."

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"Good news on GIC"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pittsfield residents got good economic news at a time when everyone could use a little Tuesday when city officials and the Public Employees Committee reached a tentative agreement to join the state-run Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Responding favorably to a request from Mayor Ruberto to meet one more time after talks stalled last week, the union leadership agreed to switch from Blue Cross-Blue Shield to the GIC, which will save the city an estimated $2.7 million. As Scott Eldridge, the president of United Educators of Pittsfield observed, negotiators considered the overall needs of the city and its taxpayers in agreeing to the pact. The city, in turn, agreed to seek a special act of the Legislature so retired city employees can continue to pay 10 percent of their health care premiums as opposed to the 15 percent current employees will pay under the GIC. The split with Blue Cross is 80-20. We hope union employees will approve the deal as they will be joining a fine plan backed by the state and its many employees, and the city they work in will save money and enjoy rare stability in its health care plan.

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Group Insurance Commission - "Towns slow to sign on: Hindered by agreement rule"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Statehouse Bureau, Thursday, October 02, 2008

BOSTON — The governor's plan to help cities and towns save on crippling health insurance costs by joining the state's Group Insurance Commission has found limited success in attracting municipalities to the program. But in some cases, it has sparked new discussion between administrators and employees about the need to find savings.

Only 20 municipalities, which includes regional school districts, have signed onto the GIC plan since last year, including the cities of Springfield, Quincy and Saugus, but none in Berkshire County. The deadline to qualify to join the GIC in fiscal 2010, starting July 1 of next year, passed yesterday.

Three other communities, including Pittsfield, are awaiting last minute ratification from union members and will be given an eight day extension, according to GIC officials.

Pittsfield reached an accord with its unions Tuesday night in a deal Mayor James M. Ruberto said could save the city $2.7 million and the workers about $2 million by switching from Blue Cross Blue Shield to the GIC.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city will now pay 85 percent of insurance premiums, up from 80 percent under the old collective bargaining agreements.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick promoted the option of joining the GIC as part of his Municipal Partnership Act as a way for some cities and towns to save on costly health insurance premiums by joining the state's large bargaining unit.

The Patrick administration is up front about the fact that the GIC will not make sense for every community, and said it was only part of a larger package of laws the governor proposed to give cities and towns more options to manage their budgets. Some larger cities actually pay lower premiums than the 294,000 state employees currently insured through the GIC.

While Patrick and other organizations applauded the steady progress being made under the GIC law, some lawmakers expressed frustration that the legislation made it difficult for many cities and towns that could benefit to sign up.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox. I think the local option has frightened some people and they don't really understand it. I think the state has done a poor job of selling this thing."

Part of the legislation signed last July by Patrick required that cities and towns must negotiate membership in the GIC with all local unions and earn at least 70 percent support from those bargaining units.

That threshold, designed to protect the collective bargaining rights of employees, has also proved to be a major impediment for some communities that wanted to join GIC but couldn't muster the support.

Calling for a change

Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen said negotiations in his town broke down when he and the unions could not come to an agreement over how to split the cost of health premiums.

Worried about the change in co-payments, unions requested that the town pick up 80 percent of the medical premiums. The town was willing only to go to 76 percent.

Cohen said he thinks he could have gotten a majority of the unions to support the GIC plan, but not 70 percent. He called for that provision in the law to be changed.

Despite the problems some communities are having with union resistance, Pignatelli said he would not support lowering the union mandate from 70 percent.

"A year ago at this time you probably had five or six. Now you have 20. I think with the state of the economy right now you're going to see more towns joining. I don't think the 70 percent is that much of hurdle," he said.

Not all of his colleagues agreed.

State Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, said Chelmsford's predicament highlights a problem with the law that she saw a year ago when the legislature first passed the GIC bill.

"I think the 70 percent threshold is too high," Atkins, who represents part of Chelmsford, said. "We are going to have to navigate this during unprecedented financial pressures. I don't know what the magic number is anymore, but people have to focus on the end goal and this is providing affordable health care."

Patrick spokeswoman Rebecca Deusser said the governor's office was not prepared to discuss revisiting the GIC law or any of the other provisions Municipal Partnership Act, like meal and hotel taxes, that failed to pass.

The small number of new enrollees in the GIC, however, only tells part of the story, according to Jack Sharry, owner of Group Benefit Strategies in Auburn.

Sharry represents over 180 municipalities in the state working as a health insurance consultant to identify ways to save on insurance costs. Though he encourages every client to look at GIC, he said their are other alternatives that have received a boost from the governor's efforts.

Coming together

Sharry said in some cases, like at Shawsheen Regional Technical High School in Billerica or in the city of Lynn, discussions about the GIC and the pressing need to find cost savings prompted the unions and local administrators to come together and find other ways to modify school health plans.

His company also helps to oversee eight joint purchasing groups throughout the state representing 92 cities and towns that have formed as an alternative for communities to joining GIC or trying to negotiate premium rates on their own.

"If that legislation hadn't been passed, I wouldn't be talking today about these other issues. It's lit a fire under municipalities across the state," Sharry said.

Rep. Thomas Golden, D-Lowell, said the state needs to be careful about protecting collective bargaining rights, and was cautious about supporting any change to the law.

"The legislation is a good piece. It's another tool that can be used to help local budgets," Golden said. "The GIC I receive is a good health plan and I think a little more education needs to be brought forward on the benefit to both employees ad communities."

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"Becoming a 'welcoming city'"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, October 06. 2008

PITTSFIELD — Five years ago the city established that it was "No Place for Hate." Now it's striving to be a "welcoming" community.

Pittsfield is more than halfway toward meeting the goal of getting at least 500 of its citizens to pledge to make the community and commonwealth a welcoming place for immigrants, through a campaign called "Welcoming Massachusetts."

A total of 256 residents — including the entire Pittsfield City Council, some members of law enforcement, and Mayor James M. Ruberto — have signed on. Local advocates hope to reach a 500-signature goal this month, which includes the second half of a National Hispanic Heritage celebration.

"It was clear a hundred years ago, when all of our grandparents came to Pittsfield from other parts of the world, that they wanted to try to make a life," said Ruberto.

"Today we see a replay of that ... and we need to see the creation of an incredible environment where (immigrants) can not only bring in their culture, but their desire to improve their lives and the lives of their children," the mayor said.

The Berkshire Immigrant Center is one of about 30 organizations represented on the Welcoming Massachusetts Steering Committee. The center and its local affiliate — the Cross Cultural Action Network, or CCAN — are looking to partner with residents and other organizations to raise awareness and make the county more hospitable, welcoming and tolerant of diversity.

"I think we're making a statement that we want our legislators in our community to think about policies," said CCAN member and former City Council candidate Marjorie Cohan, adding that "Welcoming Massachusetts" dovetails with the No Place for Hate campaign that the city embraced five years ago.

"There is concern today that some people aren't welcoming to immigrants. I think we have to get out there and inform people. It's not about illegal immigrants. (These people) are the future leaders of the community," Cohan said.

Matthew Kerwood, an at-large city councilor, said "the demographics of the county have changed over time. I think it's important that we recognize that."

So far, Pittsfield is one of six cities and towns in the state to proclaim itself a "welcoming community," with around 5,000 pledges signed.

Cohan said that the next big Welcoming Massachusetts outreach effort will take place in conjunction with the Oct. 15 West African community celebration to be held at The Colonial Theatre.

Said Mayor Ruberto, "I think the future of the city is for it to be broadly diversified. It is socially important to show tolerance and compassion and it can be rewarding in a solid economic way."

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"City dives into insurance pool"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, October 08, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield's unionized city workers will soon be shopping for new health insurance plans.

The 17 unions have agreed their members should join the Group Insurance Commission — or GIC — the state-run health insurance program. The public employees are currently covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

If the GIC accepts the deal hammered out by the city and the Public Employees Committee representing the unions and retired city workers, it will take effect July 1, 2009.

City officials estimate the health insurance switch will save taxpayers $2.7 million and the workers about $2 million.

"This is the best for the city and the employees," said Scott Eldridge, committee vice chairman and president of the teachers union United Educators of Pittsfield.

"I'm very excited and very grateful to the employees for finding mutual ground," said Mayor James M. Ruberto referring to the eleventh-hour compromise worked out Sept. 30, one day before the deadline to enroll in the GIC for fiscal 2010.

However, the GIC extended the deadline to today to submit the paperwork, knowing a tentative agreement was in hand.

"The trip to Boston is one I will be happy to make" added Ruberto.

Both Ruberto and Eldridge were impressed by the margin of victory for the agreement with the unions.

The measure passed by a margin 85 percent of a vote "weighted" along each union's membership. The minimum requirement was 70 percent.

"I was impressed by that, because the committee recommended the deal with a 78 percent weighted vote," said Eldridge.

"This represents to me solid support from the union members to move to the GIC," added Ruberto.

Under the agreement to enlist in the GIC, Pittsfield will pay 85 percent of the union workers health insurance premiums, while the employees pay 15 percent. The current split is 80-20 under Blue Cross.

In addition, the city will seek a special act of the Legislature to grandfather the retirees at 10 percent, otherwise the GIC would require the same 85-15 split for them as well as all active city employees.

"We will make sure the agreement conforms to the law," said GIC Executive Director Dolores L. Mitchell. "Once that happens, implementing the deal takes a long time, and that's less a function of size than the situation."

Pittsfield's switch will likely be a lengthy process because the GIC doesn't offer Blue Cross. Therefore, all the employees will have to enroll in one of the plans the GIC uses, according to Mitchell.

"The GIC will hold an insurance fair so city workers can pick the plan that's best for them," said Eldridge.

Pittsfield would be the first city, town or regional school district in Berkshire County to join the GIC if the commission accepts the agreement. Only 20 municipalities have signed up with the GIC since a state law enacted last year opened up the insurance pool to local governments and public school systems.

Mitchell wants communities to understand what the GIC is all about.

"We've created a CD with all kinds of data such as rate history and benefits guide," added Mitchell. "It's free for the asking."

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"School plan edges forward"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, October 09, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield has taken another step toward revamping its high school education for the 21st century.

The School Committee last night unanimously approved Statements of Interest for both Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School. The approval was necessary if the city is to be considered for state funding toward some type of high school building project.

"It's our responsibility to provide the best opportunity for our kids and this is the first step," said committee member Erin Sullivan.

"I can't emphasize this enough; this is the first step in a very long process," Trisha Farley-Bouvier told the committee.

The co-chair of the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission said her next step is presenting the statements to the City Council on Tuesday, with the hope the councilors will vote on the documents at their Oct. 28 meeting.

The City Council and School Committee must both support the statements before they can be sent by the Nov. 15 deadline to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The SBA would then review the documents and let the city know in a few months if it's in the state funding pipeline.

The statements detail how Pittsfield High and Taconic need to be more energy efficient. Pittsfield has upgraded lighting and heating systems at both schools, but further work is needed. In addition, Pittsfield High needs new ventilation or at least have it fixed, while Taconic needs new windows and a back-up generator.

The statements also point out both high schools' configuration doesn't meet the future needs of secondary education in the city.

The school department envisions Pittsfield High and Taconic delivering vocational, fine arts and core academic courses like English, math and science in a collaborative manner. The two schools right now segregate these disciplines because that's how the buildings are laid out.

"We clearly aren't on track with people not happy with our high schools," said School Committee Chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso, referring to an accreditation report that was critical of the conditions of Pittsfield High and Taconic.

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"Pittsfield board cool on car wash"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Saturday, October 11, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The developer of a proposed car wash at the former Friendly's restaurant at the corner of West Housatonic Street and Barker Road went one for two before the Community Development Board this week.

The board unanimously approved the site plan for David Comalli, owner of Comalli Electric, because it met all the zoning standards, but voted 3-2 against recommending the City Council grant a special permit for the project. The Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. for the special permit request.

"(West Housatonic) being a city gateway, this is not the best use for that site," said board member Florianna Fitzgerald. "But they've met all the requirements."

"I still have a concern of a car wash on a corner lot like this," said board member Sheila B. Irvin referring to the historically accident-prone intersection of West Housatonic Street and Barker Road.

MassHighway is currently reconfiguring that intersection to improve traffic flow.

Board member and Ward 3 Councilor Linda M. Tyer spoke for the minority vote.

"We have an opportunity to improve a blighted site," said Tyer, referring to Friendly's having closed several years ago, leaving a vacant building.

"The design is quite nice," she added.

Comalli's development team described the car wash as having four bays — two self-serve and two automated — which is one less bay than first proposed. In addition, motorists would have access to four coin-operated car vacuums.

Comalli felt the building would blend in with the neighborhood.

"We have a clock tower and will use clapboard siding," said Comalli, who formed B.C.D. Inc. for this project. "We've made it not to look like a car wash."

While Thomas Tierney, who lives on the south side of the proposed site, commended the developer for an "excellent job" designing the car wash, he gave several reasons why it doesn't belong next to him and other nearby residents.

Tierney, speaking on behalf of the neighbors opposed to the project, said it doesn't meet the requirements necessary for approval, will contribute to the traffic problems at that intersection, and reduce property values.

"By allowing a car wash there will reduce property values by 15 percent," Tierney stated, based on information he received from an appraiser.

Tierney and his neighbors also fear the light and noise from the car wash will adversely affect their quality of life.

"Do any of you want to sit in your backyard on a Saturday with your family and friends and be subjected to such noise?" Tierney asked of the board. "I don't."

Comalli and his development team claimed the car wash will generate half as many car trips as did Friendly's and they expect hardly any business one-third of the year due to inclement weather.

Comalli also made a "major concession" by reducing the proposed hours of operation.

"After listening to the neighbors, we went from 24 hours to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m." said Comalli.

He added the vacuums will be regulated by a timer from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, whose ward includes the proposed project, urged the board to side with the opponents.

"The developer has made an effort to reach out to the neighbors and the meetings with them have not been contentious," Lothrop said.

Lothrop said a noise problem from the car wash is inevitable.

"People will go there and crank up their car radio while vacuuming."
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To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.
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"Good deal in hard times"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Monday, October 13, 2008

By striking a deal that will allow city workers and teachers to enroll in the state's Group Insurance Commission, Pittsfield and its unions have made a wise choice that will save money and close the book on a troubled history. It was only eight years ago that the city treasurer was threatening to stop paying health insurance claims because the money was running out, Pittsfield's insurance administrator was dropping the city after years of turmoil, and Pittsfield was falling deeper and deeper into debt.

The health insurance crisis eventually forced the city into a $10 million deficit and prompted the state to take over Pittsfield's finances, giving an oversight board the final say on the city's budget. It was an embarrassing moment for a city that was still trying to recover from the departure of General Electric and find its way in a new economy.

Pittsfield's problems then may have been extreme, but they were not unfamiliar. Cities and towns across the commonwealth have been facing skyrocketing health premiums from year to year, with costs rising by 10 or 15 percent annually, a continuing trend that shows no signs of stopping. No budget can sustain such bloated numbers, particularly one hampered by the restraints of Proposition 2 1/2.

Joining the Group Insurance Commission — or GIC — could provide some immediate relief. Taxpayers are expected to save about $2.7 million next fiscal year, and the employees about $2 million. Those savings will not be permanent; the GIC is subject to the same market forces that are driving up the cost of insurance for everyone. But the switch lets Pittsfield wind the clock back, paying 2007 rates in 2009. Those savings will almost certainly be needed. The state budget is already being slashed, and just keeping local aid at current levels will require Herculean efforts on Beacon Hill. Budget tightening is becoming the phrase of the day.

The change will also get Pittsfield out of the insurance business. The mayor and City Council will no longer have to debate the vagaries of reinsurance, capitation, or actuarial tables. The GIC has nearly 300,000 members, giving it the clout and the administrative budget to navigate the mysterious seas of today's medical marketplace. For Pittsfield, it's like going from a row boat to an aircraft carrier.

The move also proves that Pittsfield and its unions can work together to make good things happen; that was not so clear last month, when talks broke down at the last minute and each side pointed fingers at the other. That they listened to their better angels and returned to the bargaining table is a tribute to all involved.

There are still details to be worked out. Pittsfield's agreement requires a special act of the Legislature to keep retirees paying their current 10 percent share, lest they see their rates jump to 15 percent. That act will need guiding hands from state Representative Christopher N. Speranzo and state Senator Benjamin B. Downing, but they have proven themselves up to the task in the past. And the GIC must review Pittsfield's deal and determine whether it conforms to legal standards.

If all goes as planned, Pittsfield should find itself with some much needed savings next spring when it pieces together a budget. That may be the only fiscal bright spot in what is shaping up to be a very dark year.

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"Council baffled over school board agenda"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, October 20, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Several City Councilors have questioned how the Pittsfield School Department developed the Statements of Interest to be used toward state funding for some kind of high school project in Pittsfield.

The documents require City Council approval — which could come at their Oct. 28 meeting — before they can be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (SBA) for their consideration. The deadline to submit is Nov. 15.

"We need to have some understanding of the cost, or at least a cost range," said Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop during last Tuesday's council meeting.

"I can't agree with Statements of Interest we can't afford," he added.

Lothrop's remarks followed a presentation by Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools and Tricia Farley-Bouvier who co-chairs the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission with Eberwein.

They explained the process of creating the statements for both Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School and gave an overview what information they contain — which does not include cost estimates.

The documents describe the physical shortcomings of both buildings and why their current layout will not meet the educational needs of Pittsfield's high school students in the 21st century.

While the City Council won't formally discuss the statements until next week, Councilor at large Peter M. Marchetti wished he had them available last Tuesday.

"Most of us on the Council have followed the process," said Marchetti. "But I don't want the statements on the Thursday before the next meeting."

"I want time to review them before I vote," he added.

Mayor James M. Ruberto took the blame for that omission and vowed the Councilors would have the documents the next day.

However, Ruberto reminded the City Council that developing a high school project is a lengthy process and the statements do not commit the city to any specific plan.

"Your not signing anything in blood," he added.

Ward 6 Councilor Daniel L. Bianchi didn't see it that way when he questioned why the School Building Needs Commission picked Taconic over Pittsfield High as a priority project.

"Instead of high schools we're looking at a high school," said Bianchi indicating a single high school is the concept being considered.

Mayor Ruberto is on record supporting a single high school campus.

The commission has not endorsed any specific plan, awaiting feedback from the SBA if they end up reviewing the Statements of Interest.

Eberwein explained the SBA requires each community to pick one school project.

Matthew M. Kerwood, councilor at large, wanted to know the thought process behind Taconic being the priority project.

"Someone yelled out Taconic and we voted," recalled Ward 2 Councilor Louis A. Costi, a commission member.

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"Long process on high school", The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pittsfield faces its own school issue as it begins to address the long-term future of its high schools, a subject that will engender considerable debate in the community. The City Council is justified in its caution before acting on statements of interest to be filed with the state, but when Mayor James Ruberto asserts that this is just the first step in a lengthy process, he is undeniably correct.

The council must approve the statements of interest drawn up by the Pittsfield School Department at its October 28 meeting before they can be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (SBA) for their consideration. At the council's last meeting, members expressed understandable reluctance to do so without cost estimates, which the mayor promised to provide immediately.

It can be said with certainty that neither Pittsfield High School or Taconic High School is meeting the needs of students in the 21st century. Given the decline in population since those schools were built, there is logic in consolidating to one school, and given the shortage of available funds at the city and state levels, there is further logic in renovating and enlarging one school than building a new one.

The School Building Needs Commission chose Taconic as the priority school, but it is just getting the ball rolling. State funding may be far off, given current economic realities. There is a long way to go and time for debate.

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"High schools' future could be at stake in Pittsfield"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, October 28, 2008

PITTSFIELD — The City Council tonight will debate the merits of Pittsfield focusing on the future of the city's high school education.

Councilors will be asked by the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission to support the Statements of Interest for both Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School.

Those documents need Council approval before they can be forwarded to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (SBA), which will decide if Pittsfield warrants state funding toward some type of high school project.

The statements describe the physical shortcomings of both high schools and why their current configuration will not meet the educational needs of the city's high school students in the 21st century.

"By filing the Statements of Interest, it's the first step toward focusing on the high schools," said Tricia Farley-Bouvier, co-chair of the commission. "It's a rather simple first step."

Farley-Bouvier said she's talked to most of the Councilors since their meeting two weeks ago when some were critical of the process and how the statements were put together.

Two key concerns were the lack of cost estimates and how many high schools are being proposed for Pittsfield.

"(These statements) do not obligate us toward any particular project," said Farley-Bouvier. "People are jumping to one, two or four high schools and the community has yet to make that decision."

A consultant's report in May estimated a single high school campus, preferably at Taconic, would cost $200 million.

Farley-Bouvier says it's a figure some people have latched onto in recent months.

"That number, 200 represents a very broad stroke," said Farley-Bouvier. "You need engineering studies for more specific costs and those numbers are not available."

The City Council tonight also has to deal with a controversial car wash proposed for the site of the former Friendly's restaurant at the corner of West Housatonic Street and Barker Road.

The Community Development Board earlier this month voted 3-2 against recommending the Council grant a special permit to B. D. C. Inc. for the project.

B.C.D. Inc. is led by David Comalli, owner of Comalli Electric in Pittsfield.

The majority sided with about 10 neighbors who felt the car wash was not the best use for the site.

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"Parking Added in Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts"
iBerkshires.com - October 24, 2008

PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts – Mayor James M. Ruberto announced today that twenty four public parking spots have been added in the area of West, McKay, and Depot Streets. The public parking lot on McKay Street was temporarily closed due to construction activity connected to the Beacon Cinema Project.

“We understood the impact that occurred due to the temporary closing of parking spots on McKay Street,” said Mayor Ruberto. “After working closely with the City Engineer, and the Commissioner of Public Works, we were able to create new parking spaces in several areas to offset the temporary loss of parking behind the Central Block Building.”

On the north side of Depot Street twelve spaces have been added just beyond Pittsfield Brew Works; McKay Street, behind the Legacy Banks’ parking lot, has been relined with an additional five spaces; and seven spots have been added on the north side of West Street.

The public parking lot on McKay Street is expected to re-open in late fall 2009.

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...More to come!...
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About Me

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Amherst, NH, United States
I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

50th Anniversary - 2009

50th Anniversary - 2009
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety
Paul Capitanio, left, speaks during Monday night's Ward 3 City Council debate with fellow candidate Melissa Mazzeo at Pittsfield Community Television's studio. The special election (3/31/2009) will be held a week from today (3/24/2009). The local issues ranged from economic development and cleaning up blighted areas in Ward 3 to public education and the continued remediation of PCB's.

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

Outrage swells in Congress!

Outrage swells in Congress!
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listen during a hearing on modernizing insurance regulations, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh). - http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090318/pl_politico/30833

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!
Photo Gallery: www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/15/St_Patricks_Day_Boston/

The path away from Wall Street ...

The path away from Wall Street ...
...Employers in the finance sector - traditionally a prime landing spot for college seniors, particularly in the Northeast - expect to have 71 percent fewer jobs to offer this year's (2009) graduates.

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...
www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/14/economic_collapse_puts_graduates_on_unforeseen_paths/

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis
Should he be fired? As Bank of America's Stock Plummets, CEO Resists Some Calls That He Step Down.

Hookers for Jesus

Hookers for Jesus
Annie Lobert is the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" - www.hookersforjesus.net/home.cfm - Saving Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada?

Forever personalized stamped envelope

Forever personalized stamped envelope
The Forever stamp will continue to cover the price of a first-class letter. The USPS will also introduce Forever personalized, stamped envelopes. The envelopes will be preprinted with a Forever stamp, the sender's name and return address, and an optional personal message.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
First issued in 2003, the Purple heart stamp will continue to honor the men and women wounded while serving in the US military. The Purple Heart stamp covers the cost of 44 cents for first-class, one-ounce mail.

Dolphin

Dolphin
The bottlenose is just one of the new animals set to appear on the price-change stamps. It will serve as a 64-cent stamp for odd shaped envelopes.

2009 price-change stamps

2009 price-change stamps
www.boston.com/business/gallery/2009pircechangestamps/ -&- www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/02/27/new_stamps_set_for_rate_increase_in_may/

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles. www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/gallery/tom_gisele/

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse
www.manuse.com

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Supreme_Court

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressiv