Pittsfield City Council Debates Repairing The Capitol Theatre Marquee

Apr 17, 2017

There is a $140,000 price tag to fix the historical Capitol theater marquee outside the Ralph Froio Senior Center in Pittsfield. But the city can’t decide if it should be budgeted for repair next year.

The estimate to restore the Capitol marquee is about $140,000. The last time it had any significant repair was about 30 years ago.

It currently decorates the outside of the Ralph Froio Senior Center – a service that helps Pittsfield’s large senior population.

Councilor Anthony Simonelli, who submitted a petition to check the price of the project, says the landmark is in extreme disrepair.

“There is an awful amount of work that needs to be done there. Steel beams were bowing, or bowed. Wiring corrosion, leaky roof – the structure basically overall is in not good condition,” Simonelli says. “It is slowly becoming dangerous.”

The city’s Department of Community Development wants $50,000 from the Community Development Block Grant for the project. The Council’s Community Development Committee then wants Mayor Linda Tyer to submit money in the capital budget to make up the remainder.

“In better times I would love to say that this would be a worthwhile project, but sitting through Community Development Block Grant CDBG community meetings about real needs in our community, this one kind of bothers me that we would take $50,000 from the Community Block Grant for the marquee,” Councilor Pete White says.

Councilor Pete White says he would rather see historical funding or state grants.

“Pretty soon we are going to be arguing over the budget. We are going to be talking about not paying $50,000 for a truck that can be used by our employees to get things done in the city.”

White and the other councilors floundered over whether this project is a good use of the city money.

“To devote 150 – you know, basically about $150,000 to fix a marquee that looks good and is an important part of our city – this vote really, it’s going to hurt to take.”

White highlighted the Pittsfield Public School District as an example of the hard times – where the budget calls for eliminating 74 positions.

The upside of funding the project is that the cost would not come directly out of next year’s fiscal budget, and would instead be spread over the next couple of years.  

Councilor Melissa Mazzeo says the city has spent millions of dollars on the streetscape fixing the sidewalks, roads, lights and crosswalks.

“And to see, you know, even if it’s just lightbulbs that are out, which is – it’s so much more than that – it doesn’t look good and it kind of shows how much do you care for your most prized citizens, the ones who really built this city that we are really benefiting from as we have gone through.”

If the funding is approved, the city’s Department of Community Development will put together a bid, sign a contractor and start the renovation by next fall.

Because the building does have a historical restriction on its repairs, the plan would have to be approved by the Massachusetts Historical