Despite technical difficulties, City Council moves on agenda items

WESTFIELD – Despite some technical difficulties during the Sept. 17 teleconference, the Westfield City Council got down to business, beginning with the acceptance of a Department of Energy Resources Green Communities grant in the amount of $168,740 for LED lighting in several schools and in two fire stations.

The list of projects to be funded includes $31,593 for Westfield Technical Academy, $22,765 for Westfield High School, $3,255 for Munger Hill Elementary, and $1,434 for Papermill Elementary. Awards of $67,793 for LED lighting in Fire headquarters, and $31,910 for the Southampton Road Fire Station, were also included in the competitive grant.

“We congratulate you on your grant award and applaud your efforts to create a cleaner and more resilient energy future for your community and the Commonwealth as a whole,” wrote Green Communities Director Brian Sullivan in his award letter addressed to Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr.

Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy thanked Westfield Facilities Director Bryan Forrette for his work on securing the grant before the Council voted unanimously for approval.

Also approved at the meeting was a COVID-19 Supplemental Assistance to Firefighters grant for $61,024 to the Fire Department. The department is required to match the grant with $6,102, which will come out of the Ambulance Fund.

Also approved was a transfer of $76,946 from the Ambulance Fund to the Ambulance Replacement Equipment Account.

Fgy also presented for immediate consideration a list of prior year bills to the Department of Public Works to be paid. While the majority of the bills were for a few hundred dollars and had been received after the close of the fiscal year, several were for larger amounts, which engendered some discussion and a few dissenting votes. Figy said he would address the issue of late payments with Public Works Director David Billips in a Finance sub-committee meeting.

At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris made a motion for immediate consideration to accept Dr. Stan D. Strzempko as a member of the Board of Health until 2023, to replace Dr. Teresa Mitchell who resigned. “It’s extremely important to have a full Board of Health,” Harris said.

Harris thanked Dr. Mitchell for helping the city during the COVID shutdown, referring to her kindness and vast knowledge. “We were most fortunate to have her expertise,” she said.
She went on to say that the city is fortunate to have another doctor to take her place, adding that Dr. Strzempko served on the Board of Health from 1998 to 2015, when he had to step down due to professional responsibility. He also serves as a physician for the Westfield Public Schools, Boys & Girls Club and Westfield State University.

At-large Councilor Richard K. Sullivan Jr. commented that Strzempko donates his services as athletic physician to the schools, before the Council enthusiastically approved his appointment.

Ebay seller Neil Petrucelli of Root Road, who is seeking a license for his business “gr8onlinestuff” appeared before the Council in a public hearing. Petrucelli said that he.operates his shop out of his basement, selling mostly smaller tools and electronics to collectors online. He also said that his business does not refurbish the items, nor do any buyers come to his home. Councilors congratulated him on starting a business, and referred him to the License Committee.

Harris, who chairs the Personnel Action Committee, also asked for approval from the Council for the job description for the Director of Public Works, due to Billips’ impending retirement at the end of October.

After a debate on the complexity of the position, the Council voted on a motion by At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty to have the item remain in committee, and convene a Special City Council meeting next week to discuss recommendations to be made to the mayor for the job description. The job search for the position of DPW director is conducted jointly by the Public Works and Water Commissions.

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