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Council seeks PVTA project information

WESTFIELD – The Legislative & Ordinance Committee will seek additional information on a request submitted by Mayor Daniel M. Knapik to enter into an agreement with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority.
Knapik requested authorization from the City Council at its Dec. 1 session to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the PVTA pertaining to a commercial project which will include a transportation element.
L&O Chairman James E. Brown Jr. said this morning that City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley will appear before the committee on Wednesday to provide council members with more information about the project, to be located at the corner of Elm and Arnold Streets and reasons to approve the MOU.
“I know the councilors have a lot of questions,” Brown said. “Some have questioned the rush to get this done, that it’s being done at the end of the year.
“So we’re looking to have Jeff come in and explain the process, how important it is for the city to have a seat at the table, to be able to deal directly with the other parties involved in this process,” Brown said.
State and federal funding have been committed to the PVTA for a transportation element of the project, including $400,000 in state transportation funds to perform a feasibility study for the mixed-use commercial projects.
“I know that some people think of this as just a bus terminal,” Brown said. “That will be a relatively small element of a much larger project that may involve retail, office and residential space. ¬†Councilors need to hear why it’s important to have a voice at the table, what financial commitment there will be for the city, if any additional state and federal funding will be available.”
Brown said the MOU will be on the City Council agenda for Thursday.
“I think we need to get that additional information from Jeff out there for councilors to understand why we should authorize the mayor to begin negotiations, to have that seat at the table,” Brown said.”We need to look at all of the options and the MOU allows the city to have some control of the (project development) process even though all of the funding is coming through the PVTA.”
Knapik said prior to the Dec. 1 meeting that MOU request is the beginning of a process, not an end result.
“We need this MOU to let us engage in a dialogue to move towards a joint project,” Knapik said. “Right now it’s not a project, but the MOU allows us jointly to do a feasibility study. Then, we would make a decision together.”
“Federal rules define how funds are expended for transportation projects, so it’s a PVTA project. That state and federal money belongs to the PVTA, which as an authority, has the ability to act alone to site a transportation facility anywhere in the city,” he said. “Without this MOU, we really have no place at the table.”
Federal and state transportation agencies have committed or earmarked nearly $8 million for an intermodal project in Westfield.
Knapik said the intermodal facility will be a limited part of a larger “multi-use building” that will be privately funded. The federal and state funding will help with the acquisition of property, demolition of existing structures, and possibly with remediation of environmental issues.
“This is the best chance for a significant project with the least impact on local expenditure. I think this is an exciting time in the city,” Knapik said. “There is some urgency, because we have been told time is short to get a project going, because earmarked money could be pulled back as Congress deals with cost cutting and cost saving issues.”

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