Council approve Westfield City Hall, school funding

WESTFIELD – The City Council voted Thursday night to approve two bond appropriations, one for City Hall repairs and the other for construction of a new elementary school.
The Long-range Bonding Committee endorsed both bond appropriations, although At-large Councilor David A. Flaherty, chairman of that committee, voted against the $3.5 million City Hall bond.
That bond includes more than $200,000 for emergency repairs to the City Hall building. The roof is leaking in several areas, including the city’s record storage areas. Roof repairs are also needed to address the public safety issue of snow dropping off the slate roof near entryways.
“We all agree we need emergency repair (of the City Hall roof), that we have the money, but I’d like to see a comprehensive estimate for the entire repairs to City Hall and a cost estimate for a new 35,000-square foot building,” Flaherty said. “I know we have to do the emergency repairs. I wish we could fund it another way and not as part of this bond.”
The council approved the $3.5 City Hall repair bond by a vote of 11-2, with At-large Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli joining Flaherty in the minority.
The $36 million bond for the new elementary school was approved by a 12-1 vote, with only Morganelli voting against the measure.
Morganelli said he did not feel that the Cross Street residents had sufficient input into the school decision-making process, a statement that drew a response from several members of the council, including Ward 2 Councilor James E. Brown Jr. in whose ward the new school will be constructed.
Brown said that a series of public forums were conducted to allow citizen input and that the School Building Committee meeting were open to the public at which residents did in fact raise their concerns.
Other councilors noted that residents addressed the City Council several times.
The city had to approve funding for the entire project even though the state is funding $23 million and the City will eventually finance only $13 million for the new 96,000-square-foot building.
The council was required to approve funding for the full cost to advertise the project for construction bids. The Massachusetts School Building Authority has a “quick pay” program to reimburse the city as phases of the construction process are completed.

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