Article

!!UPDATE!! COUNCIL MEETS TONIGHT … PLANET DOES PCTV TOMORROW NIGHT … SUSPENDED DPW WORKERS ON LEAVE WITH PAY; TAXPAYERS FUNDING PAID ‘VACATION’ … CITY’S SAND WOES OVERBLOWN

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

UPDATE / ADD 1, TUESDAY, JAN. 14, 2014

Tonight, the city council — your NEW and IMPROVED city council — meets tonight for its first regular session. Most eyes will be on the form rather than the content, since We The People have a new council president. Our Right Honorable Good Friends meet at city hall, council chambers. PCTV will televise if you can’t be there in poison.

A couple of things to note: The Ordinance Review Committee that will review the new city charter in light of the city’s internal rule book has yet to be filled. Councilor Barry Clairmont was nominated and approved by the city council at the last meeting of Kevin Sherman‘s presidency. We doubt Clairmont would stand a chance today, given the fickle swirling of the political winds.

Councilor Chris Connell has a petition nonminating Jody Phillips, Victoria Kane, Pam Green, Franz Forester, Dave Murphy, and Robert Cornwall. Councilor Kathy Amuso has submitted Matt Kerwood. Phillips and Kerwood are, of course, blasts from the past. As the the political pedigree of the others, we do not know. THE PLANET does know that Donna Todd Rivers wanted to be a member of that committee, a move that would make sense given her experience both as a lawyer and in municipal government. We find her name noticeably absent.

What about the other names — Kane, Green, Forester, Murphy, and Cornwall. Are they legit or are they “connected?” Just a question.

Could it be payback for not going along with the at-large recount that Mayor Dan Bianchi, councilor Melissa Mazzeo, and Pummelin’ Pam Malumphy tried so hard to convince her to do? Nah, politics doesn’t work like that … does it? And it doesn’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime, does it?

Also of interest are two petitions, one from Tony Simonelli and the other from Amuso, wanting to mess with the council’s 7:30 p.m. starting time. Simonelli wants regular council meetings to begin at 6:30 p.m. The hour earlier seems to make sense. Amuso wants it so that “the start time is at the discretion of the committee.” By committee, does she mean “council.” If so, that move, on the surface, seems shaky at best. Citizens have enough trouble paying attention to city government as it is. If starting times can be changed to suit the council, many people won’t get word.

Here’s the agenda:

AGENDA
• Open microphone
APPOINTMENTS

• Appointment of Deborah Courtney and Patricia Hogan as committee clerks.

• Appointment of Emily Biron to the Conservation Commission.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE MAYOR

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to take by eminent domain a permanent easement in connection with the Woodlawn Avenue Bridge project.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to take by eminent domain a right of way in connection with the Woodlawn Avenue Bridge project.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept funds in the amount of $64,500.00 from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority for purposes of completing the Phase 2 study for the Life Science Center.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept a grant in the amount of $1,774,000.00 from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for Phase 3 and 4 improvements to the First Street Common.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting on Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to grant an easement to the owners of property located at 87 Deming Street for the purposes of parking.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept a grant in the amount of $100,000.00 from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to support ongoing activities at the municipal community centers.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept a donation in the amount of $1,000.00 from Republic Services for the city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept a donation in the amount of $300.00 from Crown Jewelers for the engraving of gun parts.

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Ordinance amending the Code of the City of Pittsfield, Chapter 18, Police Department.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

• A public hearing on an application from the Community Development Board to amend Article 23-3, Zoning Districts, Section 3.302 Amendment, Official Map, by expanding the B-D Downtown Business (Section 3.209) and Downtown Arts Overlay District (Section 3.216) to parcels of land on the east side of First Street between East Street and the railroad right-of-way abutting the First Street Common to the north.

• A public hearing on an application from Pittsfield Plaza Members, LLC to amend the Code of the City of Pittsfield, Zoning, Article 23-4, Section 4.202, Table of Principal Permitted Uses, and Article 23-7, Section 7.851 to create a use category for self-storage mini-warehouses allowable by special permit in zoning districts B-C, C-W-S, I-L, I-G.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY OFFICERS AND BOARDS

• A petition from Councilor Simonelli requesting that City Council Rule 1B be amended to state that regular meetings of the Council shall be held at 6:30 p.m.

• A petition from Councilor Amuso requesting that the City Council modify council rule 10 so that the start time is at the discretion of the committee.

• A petition from Councilor Amuso requesting that the City Council Finance Committee coordinate two finance meetings with the chair of the School Committee Finance subcommittee.

• A petition from Councilor Connell putting forth the following names for consideration as members of the Ordinance Review Committee: Jody L. Phillips, Victoria Kane, Pam Green, Franz Forester, Dave Murphy, Robert S. Cornwell.

• A petition from Councilor Amuso nominating Matthew Kerwood to be a member of the Ordinance Review Committee.

• A petition from Councilor Clairmont requesting that the City Council amend Chapter 6, Article 14, Section 6-77 Eligibility Guidelines.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

• A communication from Mayor Bianchi submitting an Order authorizing the City of Pittsfield to accept a reversion of land from the Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club.

• A report from the Committee on Ordinances and Rules on a communication from the Community Development Board recommending approval of the petition from Pittsfield Plaza Members, LLC to amend the Zoning Ordinance by creating a use category for “self-storage mini warehouse”, recommending the Ordinance by amended by adding L-D-I as a permitted Special Use permit and that the Ordinance be approved as amended.

MATTERS REFERRED BY THE PRESIDENT UNDER RULE 27

Referred to the Committee on Public Works and Utilities
• A citizen petition requesting safety improvements on Brown Street.

—– 00 —– 00 —– 00 —– 00

PLANET DOES PCTV TOMORROW NIGHT

Be sure to mark your TV schedule to catch THE PLANET as we appear live for the hour, 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the PCTV studios. We join co-hosts Peter Marchetti and Jonathan Lothrop for some lively chat and yaks. You won’t want to miss it, because you just never know WHAT we might say.

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(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, JAN. 13, 2014) — Not long ago, THE PLANET fleshed out a story of three city of Pittsfield building and maintenance workers suspended after an investigation accused them of theft.

As a brief refresher, here’s a small portion of our Dec. 20 coverage:

Three employees of the city’s highway department remain suspended after a police probe revealed missing diesel fuel, batteries, and auto parts. Sources say the three accused workers include an employee listed as “Working Foreman” [as opposed to non-working foreman? Also, other items were allegedly part of the heists, including office supplies].

For months, so it is alleged, the three have been stealing material from the city garage. Sources tell THE PLANET that the value of the stolen materials “could exceed six figures.”

The alleged theft includes fuel, auto parts, office supplies, and other items.

Bad enough, right, but at least we could take solace that the city took action after finding enough evidence to warrant suspension. It will be up to the courts to decide from there. Now comes the cherry on top of this sandy sundae: the three men have been receiving full pay while on their enforced leave of absence.

That’s right, taxpayers. You have been afforded the honor of picking up the tab while the three accused enjoy their enforced paid vacation. The city suspension has nothing to do with any court action that may or may not happen later. The city, as any employer, has the right to suspend employees for what it sees as due cause. It also has the right to suspend with or without pay without regard to legal findings pertaining to guilt.

Therefore, given the burden of annual tax increases, tight finances, and a host of other economic factors, THE PLANET asks: Don’t Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have the right to expect suspensions for alleged wrongdoing will be done without pay? Moreover, doesn’t suspension without pay send a message to other employees that it is always in one’s best interests to be an honest worker? Another question: If the suspended workers are found to have indeed done what the city and the police are alleging, will the workers (by then, probably ex-workers) have to repay taxpayers for salary collected while on suspension?

Bruce Collingwood, the city’s commissioner of public utilities and acting DPW commissioner, confirmed the paid suspensions. We asked Collingwood:

* Whose decision was it to keep them on the payroll?

* How much longer do you estimate they will keep receiving pay?

* How much longer will the suspensions run?

* Will this go to trail?

* What do you think will happen as a resolution?

He said he referred these questions to John DeAngelo, personnel director. As of press time, we had not heard back from the personnel department.

———————————————————————————–

LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND

In case you haven’t heard, Pittsfield is NOT in the midst of a sand crisis. Oh, there was a sand “hiccup,” but to hear the story buzzing through the wires, it sounded like the city had as much sand as the North Pole. Yes, the recent c-c-cold snap did funny things to people’s minds.

Pittsfield Sand and Gravel, long-time supplier of the wintry mix, for some reason did not submit a bid after the city issued its solicitation. Long story short, Pittsfield went with a Vermont company, which submitted the lowest bid. What’s wrong with saving money, right?

ANSWER: When the product doesn’t meet the specs. Bruce Collingwood told THE PLANET the material “did not meet the specification for winter road sand.” Collingwood said it was the vendor’s fault, not the city’s. Colllingwood said the city “purchased sand from the second- and third-place vendors on the County Bid.” Collingwood said that after press coverage about the road-sand issue, “several vendors came forward with samples and prices. We are finalizing quotes and will purchase sand from Donovan in Stockbridge at $15.00/ton.”

Collingwood said the city had no problem with salt, which was delivered to meet specs. Collingwood said the city “purchase[s] road salt from the winning bidder on the County Bid. There is no issue regarding road salt … [A]ll purchases are in compliance with state procurement regulations.”

All’s well that ends well, but THE PLANET has to wonder how a vendor could not get a simple order for winter sand correctly without having to chew gum at the same time. Collingwood said the vendor blew it, and we have no reason to doubt that. There is, however, some kind of communication breakdown. It might be good to reverse engineer the situation what happened to prevent it happening again.

————————————————————————-

“Say the word, and you’ll be free. Say the word, and be like me. It’s the word I’m thinking of. Have you heard the word is love?”The Beatles, “The Word,” 1965.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

53 Responses to “!!UPDATE!! COUNCIL MEETS TONIGHT … PLANET DOES PCTV TOMORROW NIGHT … SUSPENDED DPW WORKERS ON LEAVE WITH PAY; TAXPAYERS FUNDING PAID ‘VACATION’ … CITY’S SAND WOES OVERBLOWN”

  1. dusty
    January 13, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    Is it true that the guy that broke into Bianchis safe will not be punished? I thought that is what the Eagle said. If it were someone not connected to city hall they would have assuredly been busted big time with their name in the paper and an example made of them. No wonder so many people think Pittsfield is a joke.

    Did the guy involved in the overtime fraud in the water department ever have to pay anything back?

    Do we have a lack of true leadership at the helm?

  2. MrG1188
    January 13, 2014 at 5:45 am #

    LOL…Hey Dan, don’t ya just HATE spell-check sometimes…like when you spell a word correctly, but it’s not the correct word you wanted so spell check doesn’t pick it up? Just check your last sentence and you’ll see what I mean. Make the correction then feel free to delete this post! Thanks.

    • Thomas More
      January 13, 2014 at 7:07 am #

      Righr MrG, that sentence makes no sense and we’ll have to wait and see the answer to: “Will this go to trail?”

      • dusty
        January 13, 2014 at 10:06 am #

        Actually it probably will go to trail. The shadowy Pittsfield Trail to Nowhere

    • scott
      January 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

      If you had mild dyslexia like me it would not have phased you.

    • danvalenti
      January 13, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

      MR G
      I have made the change. I shall also leave your notice intact. You deserve credit for reading all the way to the last line. Kike the old Maxwell House coffee ad: “Good to the last drop.” Many thanks.

      • dusty
        January 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

        I am not going to point out that boner

      • Gatos
        January 13, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        Kike? Geez, Dan!

  3. outfox
    January 13, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

    Off topic ( today’s topic, anyway) but I saw the aftermath of a guy who got hit by a car on Fenn St. last Thursday, photographed it, posted the pic, got in touch with the BB via social media, GOT A RESPONSE!!! from Jenn Smith saying the police reporter was on it, and yet….still nothing in the paper, either online or hard copy. I shouldn’t be surprised, I know, but the fact that a reporter responded gave me hope…Thing is, a whole lot of citizens saw this and participated in getting the victim help. Sigh.

    • Tim Bartini
      January 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Out foxed. I was there also. I was on my way to the Highland with my family when I heard the crash. I went over to help(I’m a FF EMT) I was impressed with how many people stopped to help. I found out yesterday that the man broke is leg and was doing well at BayState Medical.

      • outfox
        January 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

        Thank you, Tim. Good news that he wasn’t hurt worse. The young lady who hit him appeared to be going into shock; is she ok? Amazing how 30 seconds can change lives forever…I was a little surprised that, with police HQ being so close, no one thought to put down their mobile and run over to let PPD know. Don’t mobile emergency calls go to a central switchboard before being routed to local first responders?

        • Tim Bartini
          January 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

          Outfox. Yes when you dial 911 from a cell phone in Berkshire County, it goes to the State Police in Northampton first, the it’s directed to Pittsfield dispatch .

          • outfox
            January 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

            Tim, how is this effective when seconds can be critical? my question assumes you have some insider 411, sorry if that is presumptuous….

          • Tim Bartini
            January 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

            Outfox. It does slow down response time by a few minutes. If you call 911 from a land line from Pittsfield it goes directly to Pittsfield dispatch saving valuable time.

          • Mike Ward
            January 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

            That is helpful to know. Thanks, Tim.

          • danvalenti
            January 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

            Yes, this is good info, potentially life saving. Thanks to TIM BARTINI.

          • outfox
            January 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

            A small one, but another scoop on the Planet, imho.

  4. scott
    January 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    Who needs the eagle when you have a scanner!

  5. Mad Trapper
    January 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Speaking of AWOL and getting paid, What is John Barrett doing these days?

    • Jim Gleason
      January 15, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      Hopefully haunting a place in North Adams like he should be, he belongs there, although i bet Mayor Alcombright wishes he’d just go away from there too.

  6. outfox
    January 13, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    I still wonder about the fact that PPD allowed the thief they caught on tape in City Hall to steal over $250, the amount needed to file felony charges. That’s a huge game changer in terms of his future, and not just in terms of future employment.

  7. Billy
    January 13, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    The man who stole in City Hall should face some kind of punishment. If it does not happen you might want to dig on why punishment is so selective in this city.Their is no accountability in any level of management in the city.If we wonder why businesses are looking elsewhere and parents are sending their kids to other school districts it’s cause we have lost faith in our leaders. The leaders fear no accountability like is in the private sector and it shows in voter turnout.I think this election was the lowest I’ve seen in my lifetime. The mayor should be ashamed that he shows no sense of leadership or responsibility for anything. If this don’t scream city manger nothing does. Dan don’t worry. The corner office or the Commisioner will spin it and live to collect their 84 thousand paycheck and the pension that comes with it.

    • danvalenti
      January 13, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

      BILLY
      The mayor’s pay is $87,500 a year plus bennies. At this point, $84K would be a bargain.

      • dusty
        January 14, 2014 at 2:54 am #

        Does that include the pay from his other job? The one that rumors say he spends more time at than the one he was elected by the people of Pittsfield to do because they wanted change from the the last guy?

        Does his other business get any special tax breaks like other connected folk get?

    • scott
      January 14, 2014 at 5:05 am #

      Most people get a CWF for their first offense on the condition they do all probation asks them and stay out of trouble for a year. Are you saying he is not even being charged? If he plead out right off the bat thats why.

  8. billy
    January 14, 2014 at 4:42 am #

    at least Ruberto got stuff done.The mayor took credit at inauguration for stuff he didn’t do.I don’t know if he actually believes it? This Mayor and his trained seals have insulated themselves from everyone but a core group they have grown by being against everything or anyone that doesn’t toe the party line. We have lost Cranes,Waterstone, The merry go round.the MarriottThe group the mayor runs has built nothing they have rally together and try to destrybtheir critics . The Mayor has no clue how his group is making us look by not working his job full time. I guess the Bible was right, you will know a tree by the fruit it bears.

    • C.J.
      January 14, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      Dan. Cut “No Response Little Johnny Dengelo”, some slack. It takes him longer in the winter to commute from Sheffield to his city hall office in Pittsfield. BTW have you followed his track record of oversseing the demise of an old and established inatitution in Monterey ? He brings the same skill set to Pittsfield, he fits in well.

    • larry
      January 21, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      Thanks Christine for your response. Sounds like sour grapes

  9. Ron Kitterman
    January 14, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    A great example brought out by FF Tim Bartini, remember a couple weeks back how the local delegation was fawning over themselves for convincing Time Warner Cable to reverse it’s decision to drop NECN? Hey if they can do it to bring us the Patriots and Red Sox maybe the powers to be could look at the 911 calls going closer to the point of origin, instead of Northampton ? Isn’t saving a life more important than watching the Pats and the Sox ?

    • outfox
      January 14, 2014 at 8:53 am #

      New England sports are on NESN, not NECN. NECN is the New England news coverage, and I do think it’s a vital link for us in the Berkshires, considering we are otherwise lumped in with the Albany news market. I am curious, though, since we al have different cell service providers, why they all go to a central switchboard before coming to our local first responders. Would also like to see our delegation approach Boston about the uselessness of the Charlie card on the BRTA as a bus pass here in the Berkshires. If increased ridership is the goal, this won’t do it, although I do think we are overdue a fare increase here. Right now, especially with the route 7 express that goes to the mall, the bus is the best deal in town!

  10. MrG1188
    January 14, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Just curious…is there no agenda item addressing discussion of Mr. Caccamo’s eligibility to serve? Are we awaiting a ruling from on high for that? Or are we just waiting for a vote and subsequent, ensuing lawsuit?

  11. Olga P
    January 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    FYI Franz Forester is “Pumalin Pam’s” significant other

  12. joetaxpayer
    January 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    I can’t wait for the season premiere at 7:30 of (This Is How We Have Always Done It.) Some of the cast might have changed, but the storyline will be the same. Could be PCTV’s highest rated program. Who knows, maybe there will be a plot twist and some of the members will think outside the box, giving us some tax relief. Not very likely, stay tuned.

    • danvalenti
      January 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

      Love the bite of this, JOE THE T.

  13. NJP
    January 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Off topic, article in today’s Berkshire Eagle states that a car traveled at a high rate of speed into the Pittsfield High School yard, hit a tree and landed on the Cement Wall. One person in the car has passed away, one is injured.

    • danvalenti
      January 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

      NJP
      Thanks for the notice.

  14. Foxy Lady
    January 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    The “Franz” mentioned in DV’s story is pummeling Pam Malumphy’s “significant other.” No nepotism or “It’s WHO you know not WHAT you know” going on here. He’s certain to be approved.

  15. Nota
    January 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    We should change the Chata to read,only those living outside of the Pittsfield City limits need apply for City jobs.

  16. amandaWell
    January 14, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Of course there are no veterans coming back from hell and back to seek employment for some of these jobs.

  17. Joe Pinhead
    January 14, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    Taxes, Governmental Surcharges & Fees

    Includes sales, excise and other taxes and governmental surcharges and fees that we are required by law to bill customers. More Information

    The Charge can be found on your bill every month. I would hope that you read it and understand it.
    The Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) is triangulated and a position of the phone determined to within 300 feet I believe. The nature of the cell phone or mobile phone for those of us who remember that name for them makes it difficult to get a precise location. In the near future when the agency’s catch up we will hopefully be able to send text messages and video to the PSAP. This is referred to as NG911
    Some states have collected millions of dollars from E911 service charges and have diverted them to the general fund. The GAO does either an annual or bi annual report regarding the entire E911 system. I believe that the commonwealth has collected about 7 million from both cell phones and Voice Over IP phones VOIP. These funds are supposed to be used for the establishment and maintenance of the E911 system. As you might imagine all manner of scheme has been suggested by any number of groups to get their fingers into the pie.
    The legislation can be found in M.G.L. chapter 6A section 18A
    https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleII/Chapter6A/Section18A
    http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653929.pdf

    We have each paid monthly for this service, I wonder how many charges are buried in monthly bills that many know very little about.
    Now where the PSAP should be located is an entirely different discussion but first we need to understand the scope of the funds and the services involved. One can ask the question on how a county wide state of the art telecomm center to include a PSAP was not included in the jail when it was built. I think it might have had something to do with lack of vision and desire for control.
    It’s all good though because: It’s for the children

    MA DA E911 Srvc Surchg $0.75

    • Joe Pinhead
      January 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      Sorry somehow the formatting got messed up

      • danvalenti
        January 14, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

        The comment is now up and posted, as submitted. Backstage gremlins is all.

  18. amandaWell
    January 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

    The majority of the council meeting tonight was..a parking space, storage locker business, and changing the meeting time for council start up. You can’t make it up.

  19. amandaWell
    January 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    I will be grading the City Councilors each week…
    Krol C
    Caccamo C
    Cotton B
    Amuso D
    Simonelli D
    Mazzeo C
    Connell B
    Lothrop A
    Tully incomplete
    Clairmont A
    Morandi B

    • danvalenti
      January 14, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

      No, AMANDA, you can’t. Fiction is Pittsfield is known as “truth.”

  20. amandaWell
    January 14, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    Never thought I would say this, but Councilor Lothrop was stellar.

  21. Foxy Lady
    January 14, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Jlo was def. on his “a” game

  22. scott
    January 15, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    How can something be new and improved?

    • danvalenti
      January 15, 2014 at 8:49 am #

      ANSWER: When the phrase is contained within quotes.

      • scott
        January 15, 2014 at 9:23 am #

        Well considering the legal issue you raised concerning one councilor I’d say theyre new but not improved. Kinda like Pete &Chris changing their name to zucco’s business’s usually “improve” their product or service but mostly just put the same crap in a different box.

        • danvalenti
          January 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

          “New and improved” in quotes is not meant to be literal.

  23. allthesame
    January 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    FYI,

    Pam Green, worked on tax title properties for the city under DeRosa Dohoney. Was not happy and left them. Her husband is a member of the Board of Health.

  24. allthesame
    January 15, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    oops! she’s also a member of the PEDA Board appointed by Bianchi.