City Council approves $10M Airport Bond, tables Stormwater Fee Increase

Westfield City Hall

WESTFIELD – After returning from Executive Session, the City Council covered a lengthy agenda, passing the majority of items, including a $10.25 million airport improvement bond by a unanimous vote, while tabling the stormwater fee increase for a month.
The airport improvement bond is not expected to be sold, but allows the city to receive a MassDOT grant of more than $10 million for airport improvements, for a city match of just over $500,000.
The stormwater fee increase was tabled on a motion by At-large Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III, who asked first for a report from the auditor within 30 days on how the last five years of stormwater fees were spent. The motion to table pre-empted a discussion of the fee increase at the City Council.
Following a public hearing on an ordinance for Short Term Rentals, the ordinance was referred to the Legislative & Ordinance committee and the Law Department.
At the public hearing, new Planning Board member Richard Salois spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying that it was well-written, and better than nothing at all. “Right now we have nothing, (this gives us) some way to control problem areas. It doesn’t cover all issues, but does give a good basis,” Salois said.
Speaking against the ordinance was Frank Mills of Overlook Drive. “It was unanimous that the people of Overlook Drive are not enamored,” said Mills, referring to an incident with a short term residential property that turned into a party house, resulting in an overturned street lamp. “For what little reward is financially gleaned (for the city), the cost of overseeing it is far greater,” he added.
Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski’s petition to accept seven streets in the Devon Manor area as public ways was unanimously approved for referral to the Department of Public Works, Engineering, the Assessor’s office and the Law Department.
Onyski said these streets, which he described as in “fairly good shape,” would be a test case on changing a street from a private way to a public way, following approval by the state of a Home Rule petition last year. Council President Ralph J. Figy said despite the state approval, each street still has to go through the local process to make sure all layouts and easements are correct.
During public participation at the start of the meeting, James Plasse of Hillary Lane, one of the streets on the list, said the 109 households in the Devon Manor area were in support of the petition, and thanked Onyski for supporting it. Plasse said this is the second time in 20 years they tried to put it through. He said his main concern was for safety and liability.
Approved at the Council meeting was the second reading on a motion to create a Special Purpose Stabilization Fund for road and sidewalk maintenance and repair, after a request for reconsideration of a tie of 6-6 on the second vote at the April 4 meeting.
“By creating this, we’re creating a vehicle for the Mayor to put in Free Cash,” said At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy. The vote passed 12 to 1, with At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris voting no, stating that it was unnecessary.
A second reading and final passage on a heavy truck exclusion on Paper Mill Road from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. passed 12 to 1, with At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy the sole no vote. Several councilors agreed that the exclusion would not solve all the problems with trucks in the area, and that raising the railroad bridge would be the better solution.
At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II said that he, Onyski and Mayor Brian P. Sullivan were petitioning legislators to find a way to increase the height and width of the railroad bridge at E. Mountain Road. Bean said he expected it to take more than five years to “get the ball rolling.”
During public participation at the start of the meeting, Paper Mill resident Joann Barnes said the exclusion would apply to commercial vehicles only, and the 2.5 ton limitation was for the carry weight. She said it would not apply to personal pick-up trucks, and encouraged the councilors to support the vote.
A vote on a request from DPW of $190,000 for a back loader truck for Waste Collection, recommended by the Finance Committee, passed more narrowly, with a vote of 8 to 5. Voting for the transfer from Free Cash were Councilors Allie, Babinski, Bean, Beltrandi, Burns, Harris, LeFebvre, and Onyski. Voting against the truck expenditure were Emmershy, Figy, Flaherty, Morganelli and Surprise.

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