The Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Council has approved a $300,000 COVID-19 spending plan drawn from municipal coffers.
Mayor Linda Tyer says the free cash allocation request she brought to the council Tuesday is intended to cover the cost of Pittsfield’s COVID-19 response.
“We’re going to designate those funds in a line item specific for that purpose. So in other words, we can’t use that money to buy something for the Office of Cultural Development – it must be used for COVID-19 spending,” explained the mayor.
That new line item created for the spending was added to the Office of Emergency Management budget.
“General operational expenses was $97,965," said City Council President and Councilor At-Large Peter Marchetti. "That included purchases of wipes, gloves, cleaning supplies, washers and dryers for [the] fire station, gates to secure parks, the cleaning of city hall, the purchase of computers to allow working remotely, other IT equipment such as Zoom.”
$14,700 is dedicated to the transformation of the former St. Joseph High School building on Maplewood Avenue into a temporary homeless shelter for the duration of the pandemic. The building required a deep clean, new walls and lighting, CO detectors, handicap ramps, heating and running water, and new communications infrastructure. $529 will be used for grab-and-go signs the city is installing in front of restaurants. $25,000 in state grant money will go to public health services like contracted nurses, and just over $4,600 from a $25,000 grant from the Berkshire United Way will establish an Emergency Operations Center in the former jail on Second Street.
“I think it’s important to note that there’s a good chance that 75% of these monies will be reimbursed through the federal government through the emergency declaration that we’re under,” said Marchetti.
Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi were the only dissenting votes on the council of 11. Connell told WAMC that he didn’t oppose the spending so much as the manner in which it was being carried out.
“It will add more tax burden to the taxpayers, as opposed to taking the free cash and using it to pay the overages in the various accounts that they have used to pay for the expenses,” said the councilor.
According to finance director Matt Kerwood, the city has spent over $100,000 on COVID-19 expenses to date. Additional costs beyond the new $300,000 expenditure are expected. Pittsfield’s free cash fund has over $6,030,000 remaining in it after the spending was approved. The council meeting – the city’s first since March 10th – was conducted remotely over a digital conferencing service.