Committee recommends ordinance on snow removal, gives update on water quality

Councilors Dan Allie, Nicholas Morganelli, and Mary Ann Babinski during Thursday’s Public Health and Safety Committee meeting.

WESTFIELD- The Westfield City Council Public Health and Safety Sub-Committee met Thursday evening to discuss ordinances on snow removal and to update the public on the town aquifer situation.

The meeting began with a previous motion by Councilor Mary Ann Babinski to assess the need for a sidewalk from Southampton Road to Twiss Street along Arch and Lockhouse Roads. Due to Babinski’s constituents not being present, the motion was tabled and held in committee.

The second major item was a review or amendment of an ordinance regarding the removal of snow and ice from storm drains, sidewalks, and fire hydrants. The committee reached out to the fire department and Department of Public Works to see if such removals would be under their authority.

“The Fire Commission received our correspondence in May,” said Councilor At-Large Nicholas Morganelli, “in their minutes they stated ‘Chief Regan wants it understood that this is not the responsibility of a Firefighter. We occasionally go out and clear some hydrants just after a snow storm.”

Morganelli added that there are more than 2,000 fire hydrants in Westfield. DPW director David Billips was present at the meeting. He said that the DPW does not have the manpower to clear off more than 2,000 fire hydrants after a storm.

“There’s other things we have to clear. We have to be able to get into the well and our guys are out removing snow,” said Billips, “we have had big storms and gone out there and mustered everybody and did what we need to do so people don’t have to shovel them out.”

Morganelli noted that there is no current legal obligation for Westfield residents to clear snow off fire hydrants near their house. He said that the only obligation is that of a good neighbor. The Committee requested that the DPW create a list of fire hydrants and storm drains they will be responsible for.

“The bottom line is the responsibility must remain with the owners of properties in proximity of each hydrant,” said Morganelli, “Therefore I want to propose an amendment.”

There were questions over whether there was a state law that would compel citizens to clear the snow off hydrants near their home. There was a law stating that people cannot purposefully pile snow on top of a hydrant in Massachusetts general law, but nothing that would require citizens to do the work to remove it.

Morganelli proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would require residents to clear the fire hydrants near their house within 24 hours of the end of snowfall. He specified that if the snow ends on an even numbered day, those in even numbered houses would be responsible, with the same being the case for odd numbered days and houses.

The committee opted to refer the amendment to the Legislative and Ordinance sub-committee. They did not include language regarding enforcement of the ordinance but recommended to the Legislative and Ordinance committee and law department that they add such language.

Due to time constraints, the committee could not finish the final two agenda items for the night. Billips was able to give a brief update on the quality of water in Westfield. He said that recent tests came back and gave positive results. Billips said that wells seven and eight should be back online by July at the latest.

“There were rumors going around that the arsenic levels were three times the limit,” said Billips, “We had never detected arsenic in any of our water systems, and we still haven’t.”

To Top