WESTFIELD – City Engineer Mark Cressotti was reappointed to his position until Feb. 2022 by a vote of 12-1 in the City Council Thursday, after nearly every councilor weighed in on a discussion of downtown improvement projects, state bids and budget shortfalls.
Personnel Action Committee chair Cindy C. Harris brought the nomination forward with a 3-0 recommendation from her committee. She said Cressotti has been City Engineer since September of 1989, and listed his qualifications and professional memberships. She also said he regularly attends sub-committee and council meetings, welcomes councilors’ comments, and has the best interest of the city and its residents in mind.
Harris said each councilor had been given a copy of the Annual Engineering Report for 2018 (posted at www.cityofwestfield.org under the Engineering Department).
Harris also cited the support of Department of Public Works Director David Billips, who called Cressotti an “exceptional engineer and employee,” and “a man of integrity”; and of Joe Giffune, president of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail, who said he’d be “hard-pressed to find someone as important to the community as Mr. Cressotti.”
Harris also reported that At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty did not share the same views, and gave the PAC a list of criticisms, among them that Cressotti doesn’t accept councilors’ input, has repeated problems with his budget, and outsources nearly everything.
Harris said that Cressotti explained to the committee that he reports to the mayor, and attempts to do the very best he can when the city is constantly going in different directions. Harris said that Cressotti is a lifelong Westfield resident, and the city could not find a more committed individual.
Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise, who was the sole “no” vote to Cressotti’s reappointment, said it was not a question of his integrity, but more about the long-term maintenance of city projects, mentioning a sink hole on the Rail Trail. He also complained about the downtown speed bumps, which he said are costing emergency vehicles in repair; the bump outs, and balustrades.
“I’d like to do some of these projects without state funding. We didn’t need a 12 foot lane on Western Ave.,” Surprise said. He also complained that Cressotti was still pushing for Complete Streets, a federal program designed to enable safe access for pedestrians and cyclists, which he said the Council voted down twice.
Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski gave her full support to Cressotti. “Nobody is perfect, and we don’t agree on everything,” Babinski said, adding that she totally agreed with the direction that Cressotti was going in with Complete Streets. “He has a vision for this city. I wholeheartedly support the reappointment of Mark Cressotti,” she said.
At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy said he had sat down and had a lengthy discussion with Cressotti the evening before. “At the end of the day, a lot of work has been done in the city in recent years. Pros and cons — hopefully, with the positive vote we can move on,” he said.
“This is a gentleman who has worked over 30 years for our city, day in and day out. This is not just a day job. His only concern is Westfield. It’s deplorable that you cite two, four or ten items you don’t care for,” said Harris, calling the discussion callous.
Flaherty said that he was going to vote for Cressotti again. He said his criticism were meant for the Personnel Action Committee to vet Cressotti, implying they did not, to which Harris strongly objected.
Council president Ralph J. Figy reminded the councilors that state projects, which were being mentioned, are not under the city’s control.
“We shouldn’t make this personal. We’re here to do a job. We’re concerned about oversight on some of these things, as well as the cost,” said At-large Councilor Dan Allie. “We have a responsibility to people who have lived here many generations. We have to make the economy here and the community of Westfield work for all of the people, as a team,” he added, saying that the council has to have oversight on all of the projects, and relies on the department heads to do that.
“We don’t owe anyone a job. Our first priority is to look out for the taxpayer, that’s the people that vote us in, that’s who we’re responsible to,” said Surprise, adding, “If something’s been done for 30 years, and you’re getting a litany of complaints, maybe there needs to be some new thinking on that.”
At-large Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III, who is the liaison to Engineering, said he has known Cressotti for 20 years, and has dealt with him on both sides of the table, as a councilor and as a contractor. He said Cressotti has put together a team in his office that he manages on a daily basis, “and those guys are really good. I think they’re doing a good job with what they have to work with, because the pot isn’t getting any bigger, and the job’s not getting any easier,” he said. “Look at the things we’ve done over the past 10 or 12 years as a city. There are communities around us that haven’t done anywhere near the type of infrastructure work that we’ve done. That doesn’t happen by accident,” he added.
Councilors Morganelli, Onyski and Bean also expressed their support for the appointment. Bean said that the city has had a lot of federal and state funds coming in that Cressotti had an intricate part in.
Bean also said he did have a problem with the public reappointment process. “It’s very difficult. We’re on cameras. I’d like to see any one of us deal with 13 bosses and the Mayor. And it’s getting worse and worse, people are demanding a lot from one person, and when they don’t get it, they destroy the person on social media,” Bean said, saying he thinks that’s one of the reasons fewer people are applying for city jobs. “I just know he’s dedicated to the city, and that’s exactly what I want here, and I commend him for it,” he added.
Figy said he would like to get clarification on councilor participation in sub-committees going forward, after Flaherty agreed that he would have preferred to have the back and forth discussion in the Personnel Action Committee.