Airport runway repair funding, grants top City Council agenda

Ward 2 Councilor and City Council President Ralph J. Figy (WNG File Photo)

WESTFIELD – Several grants for immediate consideration from the mayor’s office are at the top of the agenda for Thursday’s City Council meeting.
The first is a contribution in the amount of $66,500 from the Military Construction Cooperative Agreement (ANG) to the Airport for the repair of the frost heave(s) on Runway 2-20. The frost heave was discovered by the FAA in February, and was the most pressing of a list of items that Airport Manager
Eric Billowitz presented to the council on April 4, during consideration of a bond order of $10.25 million for the Airport.
Billowitz said at the meeting that a grant is available to do the frost heave repair, estimated to cost $950,000. “That frost heave was 2 ½ inches – at 3” they would shut the runway and close the airport,” Billowitz said.
The ANG contribution will cover the city match for the repair, according to City Council president Ralph J. Figy. Airport liaison William Onyski further explained that of the total project cost of $950,000, which will essentially rebuild parts of the runway, the state granted $782,000, the airport budgeted $101,500, and the city was going to kick in $66,500.
Eric Billowitz worked with the ANG to obtain the $66,500 that will ultimately cover the city match for the frost heave repair, Onyski said.
Immediate consideration is also requested for a grant for $50,187 from Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Working Forest Initiative to the Department of Public Works Water Department. The reimbursable grant is to repair and develop a plan for forest stewardship and bird habitat for city-owned property in Granville around the reservoir, Figy said.
Immediate acceptance of a Site Readiness Grant of $150,000 for the Turnpike Industrial Park on Cabot Road, which is being done in partnership with MassDevelopment, is also being requested.
Mayor Brian P. Sullivan also submitted an appropriation request of $350,000 from Free Cash to the Overlay Account, to reduce the FY2019 Overlay deficit in order to prevent having to raise the deficit on the FY20 Recap.
Sullivan explained that the Overlay account in the Assessor’s office goes into deficit when tax abatements are granted to businesses or individuals, because the city still shows taxes for the full amount. Sullivan said they either need to fund the deficit, which he said was unexpectedly high in 2019, now out of free cash and bring it to zero, or tax the residents next year to make up the difference. He said being fiscally responsible, he didn’t want to do that.
Sullivan said there is $1M remaining in free cash after this request.
The mayor’s office is also submitting the appointment of William Brown of East Mountain Road as a member of the Council on Aging for a three-year term, to replace Cynthia Anderson.
Also being submitted is the appointment of Dennis Miller of West Springfield as personnel director for a three-year term.
City Auditor Christopher Caputo is submitting a report of stormwater expenses for the last five years, as requested by At-large Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III at the meeting on April 22 to consider raising stormwater fees.
Stormwater fees remain on the agenda under unfinished business, and Figy said a proposal to increase the fees may be voted on at Thursday’s meeting.
A special permit application submitted by D.F. Chase Inc. for a Business B trucking terminal for Old Dominion Freight Lines to be located at Medeiros Way is back on the  agenda. The application was withdrawn without prejudice last October after several public hearings, and a negative recommendation by Zoning, Planning and Development. A public hearing will be scheduled.
The Legislative and Ordinance and Government Relations sub-committees will report out after recent meetings.
The City Council will also vote on second readings and final passage of several items, including an ordinance change to allow employees of Westfield businesses to serve on the Historical Commission, the Conservation Commission or the Cable Commission.
Final passage will also be voted for an order of taking of permanent and temporary easements by eminent domain for the central downtown section of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail.
An order of an appropriation of $975 for the purpose of taking land on the Weilgus property by eminent domain for access to City of Westfield Drainage and Sanitary Sewer Structures; and a vote for taking the permanent easement on the land at 146 Main St. are also up for final passage.
“This is another full agenda with the potential to generate a lot of discussion,” Figy said. “Hopefully, we will have a resolution to some of these important issues,” he added.

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