PITTSFIELD — A special Town Council meeting called Wednesday after public outcry over a decision to move $130,000 in newly budgeted money to road repairs rather than the police department was canceled due to lack of a quorum.

“I apologize personally and professionally,” said Mayor Michael Cianchette. “This is not how we normally conduct business.”

After the four councilors who originally supported moving the money did not come to the special meeting Wednesday, Cianchette said the topic will be moved to the next regular meeting scheduled for Jan. 2.

He along with Councilors Heather Donahue and Howard Margolskee were the only three who attended Wednesday night.

They were also the same three who voted against moving $130,000 originally budgeted for the police department to the highway department in a move that Cianchette said was made last minute on Dec. 18 as the council considered the 2019 budget.

The money was originally allocated as new funding for the Pittsfield Police Department, which Cianchette said is understaffed and underfunded, but Councilor Caleb Curtis proposed moving it to the highway department.

“A number of constituents have called and people I’ve seen on the street have said they don’t believe what was done was correct, to take that money from the police department and put it towards road repairs,” Cianchette said.

The $130,000 in funds would have gone toward hiring a new full-time patrol officer, a full-time administrative assistant and a pay raise for Police Chief Pete Bickmore, who was hired in September 2017.

Bickmore, who currently earns a salary of $53,060, said the new funds were included in a department budget he had compiled, but he declined to comment further when asked why the new funding is important.

The raise would bring Bickmore’s pay up to around $65,000, which Cianchette said is more in line with the pay of police chiefs for communities the size of Pittsfield.

“We have gone a number of years without putting significant money into the roads, upkeep and maintenance,” Cianchette said. “However, on the other hand, we do have a police department that is becoming more robust, more solid and capable of dealing with the opioid situation that’s all over the state.

“That’s not a comment on how the police department was before (under Chief Steve Emery) or how the officers were before, I’m just saying we need to be robust and keep ahead of this issue — the opioid problem and everything that’s going on around it.”

Cianchette said a majority of the seven-member council was in agreement a special meeting should be held to take another look at how to spend the $130,000.

“I thought this was a wise thing to do,” he said. “But I also wanted to know going into it I wasn’t the only one that had that thought. If I’m the only one who believes we need to look at this again, it would be a waste of time.”

About 20 people showed up for Wednesday’s meeting. “I came for information,” said Jane Woodruff, a resident and former Pittsfield mayor. “I want to know what and why this is an apparent issue. It does not speak well that they could not get a quorum. It’s disappointing.”

Nancy Monteyro, who owns the restaurant PopOnOvers, also said she was looking for information. Monteyro said she did not attend the original Dec. 18 meeting, but from what she had heard was disappointed to hear how things went for the police department.

“One-hundred and thirty thousand dollars is nothing in the big scheme of things when it comes to roads,” she said. “However, it does go a long way in the police department.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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