City Council moves on items at last meeting before summer break

Westfield City Hall

WESTFIELD – At the last City Council meeting before summer break, councilors gave immediate consideration to new items, acted on several that have been in committee for months, and tabled others to the next meeting on August 16.
Passed for immediate consideration was a scholarship of $10,000 funded by the state 911 program to Public Safety lead dispatcher Christine Gustafson. Also receiving immediate consideration on a request by Personnel Action Committee chair Cindy C. Harris was the reappointment of Amanda Goodheart Parks as a member of the Historical Commission until June, 2021.
The second appropriation of $250,000 from the Community Preservation Undesignated account to the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail also passed. The appropriation had been voted for last month by the City Council, but had to be rescinded and re-voted in fiscal year 2019, according to the terms of the grant. The funds will be used to complete the design work on the central section of the trail, and will be considered as Westfield’s contribution to the MassDOT funded-project estimated at 6.25 million, according to Daniel Call, at-large member of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail.
On a recommendation by the Legislative and Ordinance (L&O) sub-committee, a resolution approving an Intermunicipal Agreement between the City of Westfield and the Town of Southwick allowing Westfield’s Electrical inspector to perform inspections for Southwick passed unanimously.
Also passing was a motion by L&O to approve a conservation restriction for 658 Montgomery Road, based on a recommendation by the Conservation Commission.
A first reading by title only of a zoning ordinance combining medical marijuana and recreational marijuana facilities, and changing the location to only Industrial A also passed unanimously on a 3-0 recommendation by L&O. Chair Ralph J. Figy said the public hearing closes on a 90-day clock which ends on Sept. 6, before which the council has to act or start the process over again.

Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise (WNG File Photo)

A second marijuana general ordinance, limiting the number of facilities allowed in the city also passed unanimously after some discussion. Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise said he had some concerns at limiting the number to 20% of retail alcohol sales, which would limit the number of establishments in Westfield to three. “I think we should consider changing it from 20 to 35 percent,” he said.
“This is something we can change down the road. I don’t want to be known as pot city. I’m in support of it. I’d like for us to ease into this. It’s a good place to start,” said At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II. Others agreed, and the vote was unanimous.
Also passing unanimously on a first reading was an amended ordinance to deal with clothing drop boxes.
L&O committee member and Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski said the ordinance, originally proposed by Councilors Bean and Figy, allows for standards for donation boxes, which he said usually end up filled with junk flowing outside of them. He said the ordinance requires that the name of the owner, the person responsible for cleaning the box, and the written and notarized consent of the owner of the property, if different, be submitted with the application, along with a $50 permit fee to cover up to ten boxes.
A schedule for weekly pickup must be posted on the donation box, and boxes must be placed in well-lit and visible areas, and may not be placed within the 100 year floodplain zone. Fines for violations will be $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $200 for third and subsequent offenses. The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the council meeting of August 16.

At-Large Councilor Dan Allie

Also passing unanimously was the second reading of amended ordinance on open burning to allow the backyard use of fire pits within 20 feet of a structure, after three years of work by At-large Councilor Dan Allie.
Surprise tabled ten of his motions regarding changes to the City Charter around financial and budget practices until the next meeting on August 16.
On his final motion for the Finance Committee to meet with the Westfield Teacher Association president and vice-president to discuss the labor negotiation process, Surprise received support where he had previously been challenged.
“I can’t agree with it more. A conversation will be fruitful,” said Bean. He said the meeting will be a public meeting that is televised, and one that people can attend. “I strongly urge every councilor to show up for it,” Bean said.
“I originally opposed this motion due to contracts and labor negotiations,” said Figy, who said he changed his mind after speaking with WTA vice president Matthew Wroth. The motion to set the meeting was referred to the Finance sub-committee.

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