Letter: Time to end PEDA's tunnel vision | Letters To Editor | berkshireeagle.com – Berkshire Eagle

To the editor: For more than 20 years, the city has relied on the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, or PEDA, to oversee the development of former General Electric parcels in the heart of the city.
Originally entrusted with $15.3 million from the settlement with General Electric, PEDA, which operates under a director and a mayor-appointed board, has spent all of those funds and more, with little to show for it. The parcels remain a decaying field of concrete slabs that cover a network of PCB-laden brick and mortar water pipes.
The Eagle reports that PEDA is considering digging a tunnel under Woodlawn Avenue in the hopes of attracting an unnamed “producer and distributor” to the property. (“Company eyes Pittsfield’s business park to set up shop, with tunnel under Woodlawn Avenue a consideration,” Eagle, Sept. 25.) This latest potential tenant follows a 10-year effort by PEDA to bring another previously unnamed tenant to the site: a Walmart Supercenter.
PEDA has had two opportunities to have GE replace the concrete slabs with remediated soil and grass. The first occasion was on their initial receipt of the property, when PEDA leaders were instead led to believe that the preexisting slabs would make the site more attractive to manufacturing firms. After this belief proved mistaken, the agreement still gave PEDA the option to force GE to clean up the parcel and turn it into a green field. In 2011, the then-PEDA director inexplicably signed off on a deal that released GE from this responsibility in exchange for $750,000 to be put into PEDA’s general funds.
The city recently received $880,000 from the state to start remediation, and, if estimates from previous developers are to be believed, it could cost between $6 million and $12 million to make the property truly “site-ready.”
One path forward would be to utilize what’s left of PEDA funding to close down the agency and to turn the property into a grass lot, removing the longstanding blight and preserving potential for future development. A second path is to work with our state delegation and the governor’s office to transfer administration of the site to an agency that has the technical competence and funding necessary for redeveloping polluted property: MassDevelopment. Mayor Linda Tyer’s administration has shown a willingness to break from her predecessors in encouraging coordination between PEDA and MassDevelopment.
Regardless which path the city chooses, it is my sincere hope that we do not entrust that decision to the same folks who brought us to where we are now.
Michael Bloomberg, Pittsfield
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