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Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer Delivers 2021 State Of The City Address

A woman in a blue dress stands behind a podium in front of a row of people and a trio of local, state, and federal flags
Josh Landes
Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer in March 2020.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts Mayor Linda Tyer delivered her 2021 state of the city address today.

Tyer acknowledged a grim and challenging 2020, citing the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn it triggered.

“From the beginning of the pandemic through January 29, there have been 2,201 confirmed cases in Pittsfield," said the mayor. "59,643 tests have been administered. And sadly 49 Pittsfielders have passed away. Today, with cautious optimism, I can report that the public health data is beginning to look promising. The 14-day positivity rate is 3.5%, which takes Pittsfield out of the red category and into the yellow category. Data from recent sewage testing used to detect virus concentration in wastewater further supports a potential downward trend.”

The disease wreaked havoc among the city’s long-term care facilities, with more than 40 deaths at the Hillcrest Commons nursing and rehabilitation center alone. But Tyer also noted a positive trend in the pandemic.

“This week at the Berkshire Community College vaccination clinic, 1,400 senior citizens will receive their first dose of the vaccine,” she said.

The address came the same day as a controversial decision to begin a return to in-person education in city public schools – a move that teachers say they were excluded from, but that Tyer said wasn’t made lightly.

“A significant amount of planning and investment has been undertaken to ensure that our schools are safe for in-person hybrid learning," said Tyer. "Air filtration systems have been repaired and upgraded. Daily air quality is measured. Safety protocols such as masking, social distancing, extensive cleaning procedures, and monitoring students and staff for symptoms are in place. Testing remains a key component of our overall public health strategy. Work is underway to expand testing for staff and students within our schools.”

In terms of business development, the mayor discussed her plans to ask the city council for almost a million dollars to support infrastructure improvements related to the city’s ski resort, Bousquet Mountain, which was purchased by the private investment group Mill Town Capital in 2020.

“I have proposed an appropriation from the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund for the construction of new water and sewer lines on Dan Fox Drive," said Tyer. "This infrastructure project will support the redevelopment and expansion of Bousquet and Berkshire West. In addition, these new water and sewer lines will set us up for future growth along the Dan Fox Drive corridor. I have also proposed a tax increment financing package to support Fresh Powder and Flue Chair Properties, the new owners of Bousquet. They project a capital investment of nearly $11 million. Keeping Bousquet open and successful will offer year round outdoor recreation for people of all ages and abilities.”

After a year where the city’s policies around the unhoused dominated public discourse, Tyer said homelessness would be a priority for her administration moving forward.

“This year, the city's housing work will prioritize expanding and improving crisis sheltering with an emphasis on the development of new supportive housing," said the mayor. "If all goes well, we will see a new crisis shelter open at the First United Methodist Church with room for 40 guests after COVID regulations have been lifted. The newly formed homeless advisory committee has begun their work to help us advance our number one housing goal for 2021 securing safe stable housing for those experiencing homelessness.”

The address also touched on an unidentified new downtown tenant, the development of new market-rate and affordable housing units, and plans to celebrate African American civil rights icon Reverend Samuel Harrison, whose historic home is located on Third Street in Pittsfield.

Tyer is in her second four-year term.

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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