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Pittsfield swears in new government, Mayor Tyer delivers state of the city address at BCC inauguration

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer.
Josh Landes
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer delivering her state of the city address at Berkshire Community College on January 3rd, 2022.

At a ceremony Monday morning, the city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts swore in its new government and Mayor Linda Tyer delivered a state of the city address.

The inauguration, held at Berkshire Community College, saw City Clerk Michelle Benjamin, 11 city councilors, and 6 school committee members take their oaths of office. At-large city councilors Peter Marchetti and Pete White – both allies of Mayor Linda Tyer – were re-elected to serve as the body’s president and vice president respectively.

After the swearing-in, Tyer delivered her state of the city address.

“Let's look back for just one minute to January 6th, 2020, the date of our last inaugural ceremony," said the mayor. "It seems like 100 years ago, we've all been through so much. At that time, though, we had no idea of the utter devastation and hardship that was to come in the weeks and months, and sadly now years to come. COVID-19 totally upended our way of life. And as we know, the pandemic rages on.”

After calling on the crowd to give a standing ovation for the city’s first responders, the mayor gave an update on the local distribution of state-provided COVID-19 rapid tests.

“Upon confirming this great news that we would receive these free at-home test kits, I immediately convened the COVID-19 task force to discuss distribution," said Tyer. "As usual, great and dedicated minds came together to create the most efficient way to get the free test kits into the hands of our most vulnerable residents. [Berkshire County] Sheriff [Thomas] Bowler and his team agreed to serve as the distribution center. The city's Health Department took the lead in connecting with our community agencies and making deliveries. In the first week of receiving the test kits, the health department distributed more than 5,000 at-home test kits to 17 organizations that serve the people of Pittsfield.”

Tyer offered an optimistic picture of the city’s economic development moving forward, citing private investments like the redevelopment of the Bousquet Mountain Ski Area and construction of a new $10 million Holiday Inn on South Street.

“In round two of the city's COVID-19 small business recovery grant program and in partnership with the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation, we assisted 35 small businesses with grant funding totaling $255,400," said Tyer. "This critical funding helped our hard working small businesses pay rent, utilities, payroll, and secure inventory. Since the inception of this grant program that I established at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the city of Pittsfield has awarded grant funding to 90 small businesses totaling $935,000.”

Tyer pointed to development in the Morningside neighborhood, a low-income community near the former General Electric campus on the east side of the city.

“With the ongoing private investments underway all along Tyler Street, including housing, streetscape, and the city's first ever roundabout, there is a critical mass of investments, improvements and activity happening in this historic neighborhood,” said the mayor.

The long vacant historic firehouse on Tyler Street is being turned into market-rate housing, and an almost $900,000 state grant will go toward addressing one of the vast, overgrown concrete lots in the neighborhood. Tyer said that isn’t the only piece of empty space the city aims to develop this year.

“After many long years of attempted negotiations, the city of Pittsfield has finally entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the blighted eyesore known to all as the Hess station," said the mayor to applause. "Demolition of old structures will take place and the parcel will become a green space with an eye toward future development opportunities. And it can't happen soon enough.”

Tyer acknowledged that the city had yet to make advances on two pieces of its public safety infrastructure.

“Progress has been slow and somewhat painful, but we will not give up on our goal of building a new police station and a new training tower for the Pittsfield Fire Department," said the mayor. "Funding challenges exist. Locations are limited. Questions persist about new construction or renovation of existing spaces. The one thing that we know for sure, is that the current police station and the training tower for the fire department have long outlived their usefulness. And in the police station, with each passing day that facility becomes more deteriorated and unsafe. For example, recent flooding resulted in fast-growing mold that damaged equipment and supplies and created an unhealthy work environment.”

One of the major questions for 2022 will be how the city chooses to spend $40 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding. Tyer shared an update on Pittsfield’s plan that has emerged from community forums and a special advisory group about how to use the windfall.

“First round investments from the American Rescue Plan include funding for the YMCA to expand their childcare programs, improvements to the city's drinking water infrastructure at the Ashley Reservoir, closing the funding gap for the development of the homeless shelter at the First United Methodist Church, air quality improvements to the city's fire stations, and upgrading sidewalks throughout Morningside and West Side,
said Tyer. "Later this month, we will issue an invitation to apply for the second round of ARPA investments. We are anxious and curious to see how Pittsfield community partners and residents have reimagined their future.”

You can hear Tyer’s full state of the city address here:

Tyer 2022 SOTC 1-3-22.mp3

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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