City Council moves quickly through agenda as snow flies

Westfield City Hall

WESTFIELD – The pace was brisk at City Council, as Council President John J. Beltrandi, III moved the agenda along, mindful of the snow that was falling outside.
Despite the cancellation of an intended visit by second graders from Paper Mill School, several students and their families came anyway, and the students were invited to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the meeting. During public participation, representatives from the Westfield Spanish American Assoc. (WSAA) invited the councilors to their annual flag raising ceremony at City Hall this Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m.
Immediate acceptance for a support and incentive grant of $139,840 from the Mass. 9-1-1 Department to the Westfield Public Safety Communications Dept. pass unanimously. Finance committee chair Dan Allie said the grant had no matching fund requirement, was an annual allocation, and would be spent on salaries and supplies.
The disposition of the Bond order originally intended to build the Ashley St. School also engendered little discussion. Allie said on the original $36 million bond that was approved, the city borrowed $3.5 million. He spoke in favor of the request to use the $552,000 remaining in unexpended funds to replace the roof on Westfield High School, before referring it to Finance.
Allie also referred the request to rescind the $32 million remaining on the bond, because the project has been cancelled, to Finance for review. At-large Councilor David Flaherty said the order would need to come to the Legislative & Ordinance committee, so it was referred to L&O and the Law Department as well.
Also referred to Finance was the request to surplus the unused equipment and construction material that had been purchased under the bond, Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy said the district has already reallocated within the schools what they could use. Allie said the Mayor wants to use the brick that had been purchased for the permanent water filtration structure that is being built.
On the Mayor’s request for the acceptance of a Managed Appropriation Reduction for the FY19, current year budget, Allie said he will schedule a Finance sub-committee meeting on the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving, at which time the Mayor will have the numbers of the managed reduction to review. Following that review, a Special Meeting of the City Council will be scheduled for Nov. 29 to set the tax rate.
In other business, the Council voted for a first reading by title only three items that came out of L&O. The transfer of a small piece of land from the city, originally part of the land on which the high school was built but on the other side of the turnpike, to be included in the property of 70 Turnpike Industrial Road.
The Council also approved the first reading for the Community Host Agreement for Cannabis Connections, at a vote of 10 to 2. Flaherty said he believed that the team behind the business was the best to come forward to date, but he could not support any recreational marijuana business due to the mixed message it sends to the kids he works with in scouting. The other no vote came from Allie, with no comment.
The Council also approved the first reading for a zone change at 230 Southampton Road from Residential A to Business A. Beltrandi stepped down as president and abstained for the vote, as he is the owner of the property in question. The zoning change had already gone through the Planning Board, Zoning, Planning and Development and a public hearing in the Council. A second reading on all three items will be scheduled.
The Council also voted for immediate acceptance to allow Facilities Director Bryan Forrette to serve as a volleyball referee, which required a G.L. disclosure as a second position in the city.
A motion by At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II to accept a letter from the referees association related to the condition of the soccer fields in Westfield was also discussed. Bean said the letter also went to the School Department, Mayor and DPW. He said they will be meeting in the next couple of weeks with the athletic director to come up with a plan.
A motion was made by Figy to have the Traffic Commission review the parking and number of handicapped spaces at Westfield Technical Academy, particularly in the upper parking lot. Figy said the parking lot was reconfigured for the Little League World Series and spaces taken away from students. He said he would like the Traffic Commission to review.
Beltrandi also made a motion to begin the process to fill the upcoming vacancy for City Auditor. Flaherty made a motion to have the process mirror the search committee put together for the Collector/Treasurer position.
Flaherty also noted that Friday (Nov. 16) is Treasurer Meghan Kane’s last day. He thanked her for everything that she has done for the city. “She’s been a great help, and will be hard to replace,” Flaherty said, a sentiment shared by the other members of the City Council.

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