Council approves requests, financial transfers, gift acceptance and more

WESTFIELD – The City Council City Council approved all items that came before it for a vote at the Feb. 20 meeting.

Approved was the gift of a scoreboard from Scott LaBombard for Sadie Knox Park. LaBombard, a member of the Park and Recreation Committee, organized a fundraising drive to buy the scoreboard, raising $4,500. The board will be installed by Westfield Gas & Electric with its logo on it.
Also approved for immediate consideration were the Statements of Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for repairs to Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy. School liaison Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy said the SOIs are submitted every year, and do not obligate the city or Authority to go forward.
City Council President Brent B. Bean II asked whether the SOIs would get in the way if the city were to change direction and seek to build a new school. Figy said they do not obligate the city to any plan. Previously, the district’s Chief Financial Officer Ronald R. RIx said the SOIs set the groundwork for future applications to the MSBA for the high schools.
Ward 3 Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane requested as a member of the License subcommittee that the City Clerk schedule a public hearing for Big Y’s application for a gas storage license at 330 East Main St. The Planning Board approved a special permit and site plan for a Big Y gas station at that location in October.
A motion was made to place on file the Attorney General’s finding on an Open Meeting Law complaint. Bean said he will ask the City Solicitor to address the City Council on March 5 on the OML decision, which he said, “will affect all of us.”
Four items recommended by the Finance subcommittee also passed unanimously,
The first was an appropriation of $31,200 from Free Cash to update the Assessor’s software, which will not continue to be supported by the company in its present version.
An appropriation of $97,700 from Free Cash to the Police Department for repairs to a classroom, cracks in a bay floor, and a survey to determine the status of Bay 1, and for a new Ford Explorer were also approved; as was an appropriation of $69,667 from Free Cash to the Fire Department for the first payment on leases for three vehicles.
Also approved was $469,889 from the Fire Department’s Ambulance designated fund balance for the cash purchase of two ambulances.
Councilors restored $1,624  from Free Cash to the City Council salary. The council voted the cut during the budget process, following which Assistant City Solicitor Shanna Reed said salaries were determined by city ordinance according to Mass General Law and would require an ordinance and possibly a charter change to enact the cut. Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. said it would cost more to make the changes and asked the salary to be restored, according to members of Finance.
Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski, who chairs the Legislative & Ordinance committee, said he brought out a possible increase to School Committee salaries to the full Council, due to the Open Meeting Law ruling, which made him reluctant to allow Figy as school liaison to speak at the meeting. Onyski said the School Committee has not had an increase in compensation, currently at $5,000 annually, since 2002. He asked the Council to send it back to committee and said he would reach out to the School Committee for a suitable increase.
At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris received unanimous approval for the reappointments of Elizabeth Boucher and Alan Sudentas as members of the Council on Aging board until Feb. 2023.
Harris said Boucher has served on the board since 2011, and as secretary since last year. She coordinates the seniors novel book group, and author visits. She is also a lifelong resident of Westfield, except for a six-year deployment in the U.S. Air Force.
Sudentas has been involved as a volunteer at the Council on Aging since 2008 “in every capacity,” Harris said, and is seeking a second term on the board. He is the only board member who has lived in two different senior housing, and often serves as an advocate for his fellow tenant, she said.
Council on Aging Director Tina Gorman supported the reappointment of both candidates.
The only item not unanimously approved for referral to the Legislative and Ordinance Committee and the Law Department was the motion by At-large Councilor Dan Allie, and signed on by eight councilors  in support of a resolution opposing the Transportation and Climate Initiative gas tax and climate change initiative.
The motion was referred to Legislative and Ordinance and the Law Department,  with Matthews-Kane and At-large Councilor Rick Sullivan opposed.

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