Pittsfield City Council Votes To Reexamine Metered Parking, Home Improvement Program

May 15, 2019

At Tuesday’s Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council meeting, attempts were made to resuscitate a home improvement initiative that failed in April. And the merits of metered parking were debated.

At an April city council meeting, the owner of downtown Pittsfield gym Berkshire Nautilus – Jim Ramondetta – expressed dismay with the administration of Mayor Linda Tyer over the fact that a project to replace a crumbling parking garage would also see free parking replaced with meters. He alluded to an April 3rd abutters meeting about the project.

“I must say I was literally stunned to learn for the very first time at this meeting that not only would there be no additional free three-hour public parking spaces created with the reconstruction, but even more alarmingly, all of the free three-hour public spaces that my clients have come to depend on were being removed,” said the gym owner.

Tyer acknowledged his frustration but defended the meters.

“Our job is to find the right balance for how to manage our parking and for how to have a source of revenue to address parking facilities and parking needs,” she told WAMC.

On Tuesday, Ward 6 Councilor John Krol brought forward a petition to amend the city’s traffic orders to remove metered parking from the Columbus Avenue lot.

“My hope was that the administration was going to work with Nautilus and others to come to some sort of consensus or compromise here to shift things," said Krol. "That is not happening, so it is my hope that the council can send this to subcommittee and have a conversation with Mr. Ramondetta and others can join the conversation. I think part of it is a philosophical idea of what parking meters were supposed to do in the first place, and if we have large parking areas where people can park and walk to their destination, should all of those be metered.”

“This petition is for the Columbus Ave municipal lot," said Councilor At-Large Pete White. "Establishing 90-minute parking at this lot. This is not the discussion on parking throughout the whole city.”

White spoke against the motion, saying that expanding the conversation of the very specific petition would “bog down” the Ordinance and Rules subcommittee.

“And I think that if we put this in, we’re going to come back in a year and say it was a mistake because people want to stay longer than 90 minutes," he continued. "One of the greatest things about this new parking – not even new anymore – about this parking kiosk system is now you can park in a space all day.”

Fellow At-Large Councilor Melissa Mazzeo, who is now running for mayor, disagreed with White and welcomed a citywide examination of metered parking.

“It’s not unheard of to take a petition, bring it into a subcommittee, once you have that petition in subcommittee, you can start making amendments to it and start moving it around," said Mazzeo. "So it’s not cast in stone that we can only talk about Columbus, we can really address all of that and make recommendations.”

A motion to refer Krol’s petition to subcommittee passed, with Councilors White, Earl Persip, Peter Marchetti, and Helen Moon voting against it.

The council also voted to refer a petition to Mayor Tyer requesting that she form a working group to examine other funding sources for the At Home In Pittsfield initiative, a loan program aimed at supporting home improvement in the city’s poorest quarters. It was sponsored by Councilors Mazzeo, Kevin Morandi, Christopher Connell, and Anthony Simonelli, the minority of four that successfully blocked the mayor’s effort to pass the initiative in April.

Tyer’s designated funding source is the city’s economic development fund, which the four argued is reserved for measures that specifically create jobs.

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