No Foolin’: Another Weekly Pittsfield News Roundup

I delayed the usual weekly roundup of Pittsfield happenings from Sunday to Monday to avoid any confusion on April Fools Day (New Year’s Day, to the initiated) about them being real. It can be difficult enough to wrap one’s head around news in Pittsfield at some of the best of times, and I have occasionally been accused of being something of a prankster around these parts… So, Monday morning, with (alleged) clarity:

A meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee planned for Wednesday has been moved to tonight (c. 8:30pm Monday, after Ord.& Rules) to discuss authorization of 1.5 million dollars to pay additional costs of the McKay Street Garage reconstruction project. This is a matter of some public interest- at last Tuesday’s council meeting, former Councilor Joe Nichols spoke up during the public input period to call for inquiry into why the garage is in such a state of disrepair after only 25 years, and if the builders can be held accountable. His sentiments were then echoed by Alexander Blumen, a rising star at the city’s open mic… I’ll be blogging more on him at a later date.

Finance Committee chair Jonathan Lothrop said the meeting was moved up because the Council Chamber will be occupied for a special forum on building permits on its original date of April 4 (the 203 meeting room is also in use).

Tuesday night’s council meeting also saw the approval of Mayor Bianchi’s proposed small business fund, allocating $500,000 of the city’s remaining 6.5 million in settlement money from G.E. to offer loans and grants to small employers that might not qualify for more traditional funding. The Council also voted forward a petition from Councilor Melissa Mazzeo to recall PEDA  to report the council, this time on the hoped for life sciences incubator building, and in greater force this time. Director Cory Thurston previously appeared for two and a half hours of rigorous grilling at the Feb. 14 council meeting , for which they were chastised by the Berkshire Eagle.

School committee Wednesday expanded the list of applicants to be considered for the soon to be vacant Superintendent’s position from 9 to 10. Committee member Terry Kinnas, who has vehemently opposed the way the current superintendent search has been conducted, raised a curious question Wednesday, when he inquired about a rumor that a former school employee, Christine Canning-Wilson. Allegedly, she was told she could not apply for the position due to a previous legal agreement following resolution of a suit against the city several years ago. Kinnas said he had received an email as a school committee member, and had read about it “in the media” [ this assertion appeared on PlanetValenti earlier that day ]. Committee Chair Alf Barbalunga said he did not receive such an email, and Mr. Kinnas has not responded to an email sent Wednesday requesting more information or a copy of the email.
As the screening committee for applicants begins to assemble, a public input survey has been released and can be filled out online


The Department of Community Development hosted a panel of development experts from the Urban Land Institute on Thursday as part of a study of urban renewal possibilities for the West Street quadrant of downtown. Opportunities to develop market rate housing and create open spaces to redefine traffic and neighborhood perception were among the key subjects examined. While the initial presentation of findings was a bit vague (and the imperative for focusing renewal efforts on this “corridor” unclear), a full study will be available for public perusal in about six weeks.

The "West Street Corridor" being examined stretches to the Housatonic and railroad overpass, and includes the Berkshire Eagle and Clocktower Condominiums

While the masked bandida of the Elm Street (and one West Housatonic) robberies has allegedly been caught, another plucky female seems to have pretty casually pulled a heist back on Elm Street Friday, this time at Greylock Federal Credit Union. The Copycat Effect continues to rage across the city… or is there something to protestations by Mark Kenyon, that his mother Danielle is innocent of the other Elm robberies? Mark publicly denounced the PPD on their Facebook on their handling of his mother’s arrest two weeks ago  Investigation into Friday’s bank robbery continues. 

A fire on Clydesdale Drive was put out without intervention by a broken pipe, a water cooler, and a fish tank present, firefighters found, in the kind of oddball story that gets a lot of AP traction, and has already appeared in a couple dozen papers from here to Iowa as well as FireEngineering.com

Sadly, a more serious fire on Orchard Street claimed the life of 59 year old Claudette Roberts early Sunday morning. Several people I know spoke well of Claudette, “a sweet woman who was well liked by many people.”

On a lighter, but somewhat angsty note, yesterday was the most boring and unremarkable April Fools Day in recent memory for a city that for the last three years has seen garish public displays of absurdity (at least the Red Lion Inn can always be counted on for a little AFD flair)  How far we have fallen from the days when we had media across the region chasing their tails trying to figure out if we were really moving Park Square to Depot Street!!  Citizens, please email newly appointed Cultural Development Board member Javier Dominguez (dominguez.javier1@gmail.com)  and tell him to get some FOOLERY on their agenda!

On a final (human interest?) note, PCTV has aired and uploaded a special one hour show on the “Siege of Castle Greylock” catapult building competition, put on by General Dynamics and featuring students from many area high schools.  Some of these catapults were pretty rad, you can see great action footage shot by yours truly (after a whole lot of talking as my dad interviews all the kids).

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