City Council Preview: Mon., Feb. 25

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

WESTFIELD – The City Council will meet on Monday, Feb. 25 for a meeting rescheduled from Thursday, Feb. 21 due to school vacation. The change in the schedule was made at the Jan. 17 meeting, on a motion by Council President Ralph J. Figy, who said that several councilors would be away with their families. The April meeting, normally held on the third Thursday of that month, has also been rescheduled to Monday, April 22 for the same reason.
On the agenda this Monday are several items related to parks and pickle ball courts. Under Communications from the Mayor is an appropriation of $115,000 to the Engineering, Construction Dept. for pickle ball courts. Also being submitted is a reallocation of the Bond Order #2455 for the creation of pickle ball courts at the Municipal Playground.
Utility Engineer Matt Gamelli said Bond Order #2455 was originally used for the creation of the Park Square Green, and has approximately $70,000 remaining in the bond. Gamelli said this $70,000 combined with the $115,000 from Free Cash would be used to repurpose the clay tennis courts at the Municipal Playground into pickle ball courts, at an estimated cost of $185,000.
Gamelli said the demand for pickle ball courts is there, and the clay courts are too costly to properly maintain. Figy said both items will be referred to the Finance sub-committee.
The $1 million Bond Order for rehabilitating and constructing municipal outdoor recreational and athletic fields to include basketball courts, pickle ball courts and an all-abled playground is also on the agenda under the report from the Finance sub-committee. Figy, who made the original motion on Sept. 20, said that he expects the bond order to be held in the Finance committee. He said the goal is to use the funds to pay for an all-abled playground, for which Community Development Director Peter J. Miller is currently seeking a grant.
Miller said originally the vision for the bond included basketball courts for the Boys & Girls Club with matching funds from the city for a grant from the Van Trant Trust. However, Miller said the trust funds were found to be restricted for scholarships, and the Boys & Girls Club project was put on hold.
Similarly the city was seeking a grant of $400,000 from the state for the all-abled playground, but were turned down in December. Miller said he plans to reapply for the grant for the next round with a stronger proposal, which he is confident they will receive.
Miller said they have the cash to pay for the pickle ball courts now from other funding vehicles, and a Bond Order is not necessarily something they need approval for to do it.
In other matters before the Council, resolutions to authorize the Superintendent of Schools to submit Statements of Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to fund an addition and renovations to the Westfield High School and the Westfield Technical Academy. Figy said the SOIs, which are submitted each year, fulfill the schools’ requirements for accreditation. Currently, the city is in the process with the MSBA of funding approval for renovations and an addition to the Franklin Avenue Elementary School.
Also on the agenda is a petition for a zoning amendment submitted by the Planning Board to strengthen the regulation of any marijuana establishments by prohibiting them within 500 feet of any park. A Public Hearing on the petition is required to be scheduled.
The Finance, Legislative & Ordinance and Personal Action Committees will also be reporting out, and/or looking for Council approval on the items from their respective committees. Figy said the reports underscore the amount of work being done in the subcommittees. “They are working hard, and moving the city forward,” he said.
Up for a second vote and final passage are two items approved for a first reading at the last meeting on Feb. 6. The first is an ordinance amending the code of ordinances relative to the consumption of alcohol, on school, park, or playground property, only authorized by lease or agreement. The ordinance was amended in part to allow limited alcohol sales at Starfires baseball games at Bullens Field.
A second vote and final passage for an amendment to the code of ordinances for special permit granting authority will also be held. At the meeting on Feb. 7, the Council passed an ordinance that moved four items from under the City Council authority to the Planning Board, and assigned two previously unassigned items, leaving the more controversial ones under the authority of the City Council.

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