City Council preview, Oct. 5, 2017

WESTFIELD—The City Council meeting this Thursday will be one of the few meetings remaining before the city’s general election Nov. 7.

The City Council will meet Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m., with Mayoral communications beforehand at 6:30 p.m., in city council chambers at City Hall on Court Street. Several items will be discussed during the meeting, but the agenda is somewhat abbreviated from more recent agendas.

Westfield City Council (WNG file photo)

Starting with “Communications from the Mayor,” there are just two items coming from Mayor Brian Sullivan.

The first is a request for City Council to immediately consider accepting a Narcan Grant from the state Department of Public Health to the Westfield Fire Department for $5,000. Narcan, also known as naloxone, is a medication used by first responders and others to reverse the effects of narcotic overdoses. According to Sullivan, the grant requires no matching funds from the city.

Sullivan is also expected to submit a draft ordinance related to a new position in the city of media systems specialist. Sullivan said that the position, which was previously managed under Westfield State University’s purview, will be a paid position through grant money. The position will include overseeing public access television and equipment.

In “Reports of City Officers,” City Council will once again be receiving an update on water treatment and distribution in the city. Last week, the city held its second public forum on the matter of water contamination, and that included a guest from the Department of Public Health, among others.

“We’re staying ahead of the situation. The state has been very accommodating and helpful,” Brent Bean, At-Large Councilor and Council President, said. “It’s an ongoing thing and there are many steps to rectifying this in Westfield.”

In “Reports of Committees,” the majority of items listed will tentatively be coming out of City Council’s Finance Committee for consideration. According to Bean, several of these items are expected to be addressed during the committee’s meeting at 6 p.m., the same day as the City Council meeting.

Among the items are the appropriation of funds in different accounts in the city, including money going toward a previously unpaid stipend for a Historical Commission Commissioner.

Another item will be the second reading of the rescinding of bond orders not used in the city. According to Bean, it is a “housekeeping measure,” and is about $7 million in total unused bonds.

Also from Finance, there is a grant for just over $14,000 from Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency that is expected to be OKed to go to the Westfield Emergency Management Department.

Then, a resolution previously put forth related to healthcare “premium holiday” funds is also expected to be discussed. This, according to Bean, is through excess funds that the city has from their own account through their self-insurance.

“Since we are self-insured auditors tell us we need to hold a certain amount in our account,” for contingency, Bean said.

“We have more than enough money in excess of what the city needs.”

So, Bean said that the council is looking to take that money and put it toward notable long-term expenses, such as OPEB and the city’s stabilization account.   

And the final item from the Finance Committee is expected to be the second reading for the job description of the Chief Financial Officer. The Personnel Action Committee is also expected to act upon this.

From the Legislative and Ordinance Committee, two items are expected to come through.

The first is that the council is expected to act on its first right of refusal for property on Western Avenue, according to Bean. The property is being proposed for a possible large-scale solar field.

Then, the council is expected to act on permitting the spending of $400,000 for a traffic light and associated improvements on Springfield Road. A larger amount was previously requested by Sullivan, but Bean said that the council is exercising the right to “slowly release funds” that were requested.

In “Unfinished Business,” only one items sits, which is an expected continued public hearing related to a Junk Dealer’s license being sought by a company.

In “Motions, Orders or Resolutions,” the final portion of the meeting, three agenda items are expected to be discussed.

The first is from At-Large Councilor Dan Allie, who is said to be looking into what is called a “View Tax,” according to the agenda. According to Bean, this is part of the assessment of a home for tax purposes.

The second item is related to the proposed Medical District Zoning, which had a public hearing during last meeting. Bean said that due to procedural issues, the hearing has to be reopened and then closed.

Finally, a motion by Bean is expected and pertains to promoting access to community and public access television through city websites. As residents move from cable TV subscriptions to Internet only, Bean said that there may be less who are viewing the meetings held in city government.

“We worked so hard to make sure we are transparent,” Bean said. “One of the biggest pieces of that is on TV.”

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