Council votes on Pride station, pride flag both postponed

Westfield City Council meets in chambers Nov. 4. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD — In the first City Council meeting after the election, prior-year bills and mayoral appointments were approved, but more contentious matters were withdrawn until a future date.

Robert Bolduc of Pride Limited Partnership withdrew without prejudice his application for a license for the storage of 26,000 gallons of gasoline underground, and 30,000 gallons of diesel underground at a proposed Pride gas station on Friendly Way, on the site of the former Friendly’s restaurant, at the Massachusetts Turnpike exit.

License Committee Chair John J. Beltrandi III told the council that immediately prior to the meeting, Bolduc had submitted a letter to the City Clerk asking to withdraw in order to wait for MassDOT to study the traffic patterns at the site.

Beltrandi said the License Committee held its meeting prior to the City Council’s to discuss and vote on the license. He said he abstained from the vote due to prior business involvement with the company. The resulting recommendation to the council would have been a yes from Dan Allie and a no from James Adams, who also expressed an interest in waiting until the traffic study was completed, and an abstention from Beltrandi.

Also withdrawn without prejudice was the previously tabled first reading of an ordinance for flag flying on city properties. Ward 1 Councilor Nicholas Morganelli Jr., who had originally initiated the ordinance, said the Law Department told him it needed more time to look into the ordinance.

The idea of an ordinance had first come up in the spring when the Parks and Recreation Committee was asked for permission to fly a pride flag on the Park Square Green during the month of May. The rainbow-striped flag is a symbol of LGBT pride and equality. The request was referred to City Hall. Since that time, the Law Department drafted an interim flag policy.

According to Morganelli, while the Law Department agreed that it would be good to have the legislation to protect the people and the mayor’s rights, the city solicitor had sent him an email asking for the opportunity to further research it, in order to give the best advice to the council.

“We need to take the advice of the Law Department to go back to the drawing board,” Morganelli said. The motion was withdrawn without prejudice.

Morganelli said he had also spoken to the chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

The proposed $61.2 million bond for construction of the new elementary school building was referred to the council’s Long Range Finance Subcommittee, chaired by at-large Councilor Dave Flaherty. Flaherty said he has scheduled two meetings for the bond, on Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m., and on Dec. 8 at the same time, if a second meeting is needed.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority voted to award the city $30,562,787 for the project on Oct 27. Purchasing Director Tammy Tefft said the city has 120 days from the date of the MSBA vote to approve the bonding necessary to pay for the project, and to accept the cost, site, type, scope and timeline for the project.

After local approval, the MSBA and the city will execute a project funding agreement, after which the city will be eligible to submit requests for reimbursement of project costs to the MSBA, according to Tefft.

The project would build a new facility on Franklin Street to replace two aging elementary schools, Franklin Avenue School and Abner Gibbs School.

Also withdrawn without prejudice were three financial motions by Flaherty. The first motion asked to dedicate Chapter 121A revenues to an account designated for post-employment benefits owed to current and future city retirees. The second motion requested an allocation by the mayor of $2 million in free cash into the post-employment benefits account. The third motion asked the mayor for an allocation of $7 million from free cash into special-purpose stabilization accounts for the new elementary school and the proposed construction of a new police station. Flaherty said he would wait until the inauguration of the next mayoral administration to make these proposals.


Mayoral appointments confirmed

At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

Approved unanimously were three appointments by the mayor to commissions, as recommended to the council by the Personnel Action Committee, chaired by Cindy C. Harris. The appointments included Kathleen Palmer to the Historical Commission, Jay Ducharme to the Westfield Cultural Council and the reappointment of William Porter to the Community Preservation Committee.

Harris said Kathleen Palmer has shared her vast knowledge of the history of Westfield in many different ways, including bringing historical productions into Westfield public schools, helping out with the Ghost Tours, and during Westfield’s 350th celebration. A lifelong resident of Westfield, she is also vice president of the Westfield Woman’s Club, which honored her this year. At-large Councilor Dan Allie said there is almost nothing in town that Palmer hasn’t been involved with.

In bringing the appointment of Jay Ducharme to the Westfield Cultural Council, Harris said Ducharme believes he would be a great addition due to his extensive background in the arts. She said Ducharme is a composer with nine albums of original music, a long-time member of the board of the Westfield Theatre Group, and a member of ArtWorks. He was also a professor of electronic music at Holyoke Community College and served on the board of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round.

Allie said he knew Ducharme from Holyoke, when $1 million was raised from the residents, including pennies from school children, to restore the Merry-Go-Round.

“Jay is one of those guys we want to encourage,” he said, adding that people like Ducharme make Westfield special.

In talking about the reappointment of William Porter to the Community Preservation Committee, Harris said they would be hearing the word appraisal a lot, because of Porter’s professional experience. Since 2004, Porter has worked for the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Division in Hadley as branch chief responsible for the land acquisition program in the region. She said prior to that he was MassWildlife’s lead appraiser, with a background in plant and soil science. She said he is an active and valued member of the committee.

“He has quite an extensive list of experience. We really have a lot of qualified people serving the city on these commissions. This is another one,” said Morganelli before the unanimous vote.

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