!!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:
• Open microphone
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
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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.
(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.