The Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council has approved the use of almost a million dollars from the municipal General Electric settlement fund for an infrastructure project.
The Pittsfield Economic Development Fund was established in 2000 as part of the city’s agreement with GE over decades of pollution that left cancerous chemicals in Pittsfield’s ground and water. Members of Mayor Linda Tyer’s administration made the case as to why it was the best way to fund the construction of water and sewer lines on Dan Fox Drive out to Bousquet Mountain, the city’s ski resort.
“From the community development and economic development perspective, the retention of this iconic outdoor recreation business has an overriding public benefit," said Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer. “It was the opinion of the administration that it was best to apply economic development funds than further burdening our ratepayers by bonding or using retained earning under the enterprise fund, and the ratepayers will be the first beneficiaries of this project in that a significant new infusion of money will come in through fees to be paid to the enterprise funds.”
Private investment group Mill Town Capital bought Bousquet last year, along with the neighboring Berkshire West Athletic Club and the former Lakeside Christian Camp. It projects an investment of over $16.5 million in the three entities, as well as the creation of 17 full-time and 159 part-time jobs.
CEO & Managing Director Tim Burke said if the city couldn’t offer the site public water, it would become a deal breaker for the undertaking.
“The current water and sewer system is completely substandard," he told the council. "Bousquet is on well water and is on a failing septic system. We actually don’t even have operating bathrooms right now. We’re operating in a COVID-friendly winter environment with outdoor portable restrooms. In past years, there’s been no hot water in this lodge, there’s been inoperable toilets. It’s obviously not sprinklered. If we’re going to make the kind of investment that requires sprinklers in a new 15,000 square foot lodge, we can’t do that without public water. We can’t sprinkle our building with a well or with a pond.”
Ruffer argued the $960,000 infrastructure project meets required standards for use of the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund.
“First criteria being the financial capacity and the level of investment being made by the development, with the level of investment in this property only being more than 10 times the proposed investment by the city,” she said.
Ruffer said investing in Mill Town’s redevelopment of existing businesses on Dan Fox Drive would attract more economic activity to those businesses and new ones to the area.
“This project is consistent not only with the city’s master plan and the city’s open space and the city’s open space and reaction plan, which specifically mentions the importance of Bousquet to our economy, it’s consistent with national economic goals for the country where 2.2% of the US gross domestic product in 2016 came from outdoor recreation,” she told the council.
The Kleinfelder engineering firm will carry out the infrastructure work. The council accepted the proposal 10-1, with Ward 4 councilor Christopher Connell in opposition. With the expenditure, around $2 million remains in the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund.