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Tyer Talks Broken Water Main, Encampments In Pittsfield Parks, And Reopening Schools

A white, brown-haired woman in a blue blazer stands with a microphone before her in a room lined with purple curtains
Josh Landes
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer

From confronting the mounting challenge of housing city residents to broken water mains, it’s been an unusually busy August in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. WAMC got an update today from Mayor Linda Tyer.

In a year filled with surprises, Pittsfield got yet another one on Wednesday.

“We had a geyser in the city of Pittsfield yesterday over at the corner of Hubbard Avenue and Dalton Avenue,” said the mayor.

Tyer says the incident is related to Massachusetts Department of Transportation intersection improvement projects concerning traffic signals in Pittsfield.

“They were doing some work there last week and in the process they dinged one of our water mains," she said. "They let us know right away, and the work stopped, and we knew we were going to need to make a repair to that damage. So yesterday was the day to undertake the repair, and just as the work got started, the water main did erupt. So we put some immediate measures into place, including slowing the flow of water through that main. We notified the public to try to conserve water over the next 24 hours.”

Tyer says the city expects to finish the repairs by tonight or Friday morning.

On another front, Pittsfield’s public schools will begin with remote learningSeptember 15th before phasing into a hybrid model.

“Honestly, as one vote on the school committee, I was hoping that we would start the school year in a hybrid model,” said Tyer.

Teachers unions have opposed a return to in-person learning, citing inadequate COVID-19 testing for staff and students alike among other issues with state guidance on reopening.

“I do understand the teachers’ anxieties about that," said Tyer. "However, we do have such a low positivity rate that I felt comfortable being able to start the school year in a hybrid model. But again, I’m just one vote on the school committee. So yeah, I think it’s really important to bring kids back to school, to reestablish some really important routines in terms of academics, social-emotional learning, access to food.”

As the city continues to look for solutions to finding living spaces for its unhoused residents, Tyer explained why Pittsfield is redirecting donated food and supplies away from a pavilion located by an encampment of people living at Springside Park.

“There are a lot of items there, there was a lot of interaction within the homeless population at Springside Park at the pavilion, and essentially creating a space that was no longer available to the rest of the community,” said Tyer.

The city has collected donations from the pavilion and a shed erected in the park and moved them to Barton’s Crossing – a shelter run by ServiceNet that has been publically criticized for being in disrepair. Tyer acknowledged that the shelter needs work and isn’t an “ideal location” for the city’s unhoused people.

“I don’t completely agree with some of the characterizations of the facility," said the mayor. "We in the city have done annual inspections from three departments. So, the health department, the building commissioner, and the fire department all conduct annual inspections. So while it might not be cosmetically the most beautiful facility, it certainly is safe.”

Tyer tells WAMC that the city has no plans to clear the city’s parks of unhoused residents or their encampments, and that caseworkers, health care providers, and city officials are continuing to work with them regularly.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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