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News Briefs: Pignatelli files bill to improve Chapter 90; Pittsfield man pleads guilty to armed robbery

By Saturday, Mar 2, 2019 News

Pignatelli files bill to improve Chapter 90 transportation funding formula

Boston — Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, announced Thursday that his office filed a bill in regard to updating the funding formula for the state’s Chapter 90 program. HD.3714, “An Act promoting equitable distribution of Chapter 90 funds,” introduces a new formula through which cities and towns are reimbursed through the Chapter 90 bond authorizations.

“There is a dire need to maintain and improve infrastructure throughout our Commonwealth, especially in the rural parts of our state,” said Pignatelli. “While Chapter 90 funds can serve as a lifeline to communities, the current funding formula creates a disproportionate level of funding for many of the smallest towns in our state.”

The Massachusetts Chapter 90 program often serves as the main or sole source of funding for road construction/repair for most cities and towns. The program authorizes funding to every municipality in the state based on a formula consisting of road miles, population and employment. The current formula places an emphasis on three areas with the following percentages:

  • Road Mileage – 58.33 percent;
  • Population – 20.83 percent; and
  • Employment – 20.83 percent.

In Pignatelli’s bill, the proposed new funding formula aims to take 5.5 percent of funds from the population and employment categories, and applies an additional 11 percent to the road mileage category, allowing smaller communities to gain 17 to 18 percent in funding:

  • Road Mileage – 69.334 percent;
  • Population – 15.333 percent; and
  • Employment – 15.333 percent.

The Chapter 90 program funding formula was created almost 50 years ago in 1972 and has not been upgraded since. The formula itself has no legislative history, and is overseen entirely by the Department of Transportation. Pignatelli was inspired to file a bill updating the new formula as a direct result of the critical infrastructure challenges facing small communities.

A majority of small towns in the state face such a backlog of road repair need that they often have to use funding allocated through the Chapter 90 program for other outstanding projects/engineering programs. According to Pignatelli’s office, 31 out of 32 towns in the Berkshires would benefit from updating the current formula.

Although larger communities could lose 13 to 18 percent of Chapter 90 funds through the new formula, Pignatelli says those towns are able to recoup the losses through a large diversity of funding opportunities: “Bigger cities have better borrowing abilities and full-time grant writers on their staff and payroll,” said Pignatelli. “Most of the small towns in the state are limited to one MassWorks grant every three years, whereas larger cities can apply for these types of grants due to the diversity of projects. There is plenty of opportunity for those funds to be allocated elsewhere.”

The bill has been sent to the Joint Committee on Transportation.

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Pittsfield man pleads guilty to armed robbery

Pittsfield — A Pittsfield man pleaded guilty to armed robbery of a gas station and was sentenced to six to eight years in state prison. Appearing in Berkshire County Superior Court on Wednesday (Feb. 27), Luis Valle, 34, pleaded guilty to armed and masked robbery and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.

Judge John Agostini sentenced Valle to six to eight years in Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction. The case was prosecuted by Berkshire Assistant District Attorney Jedd L. Hall.

Armed with a knife and wearing a mask, Valle assaulted an employee of the Gulf gas station in Pittsfield and stole money from the establishment’s cash register Feb. 17, 2018.

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