I’m very disappointed that many of my colleagues on the city council seem inclined to want to cut the legs out from under the completion of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail by slashing or even completely defunding the operating budget for the engineering department. If that happens, the $6.25 million the state has committed to the project will be jeopardized and the planned Rail Trail will never run through downtown Westfield, the most important leg of the project.
Not funding the rail trail would save each household roughly $3.00 per quarterly tax bill for one year. In order to save this trifling amount, residents will give up the following:
* An opportunity for downtown businesses to capitalize on all the foot traffic that will be generated from the thousands of cyclists that will come to Westfield every year.
* A perfect chance to breathe life back into our downtown, lifting downtown property values, thereby generating more revenue and lowering taxes on residents. So over the long run, the rail trail will save residents money.
* $6.25 million dollars on improvements to our downtown which can never be recovered or spent anywhere else within the city.
* The money spent to improve the Westfield River railroad bridge and waterfront park would essentially have been thrown out the window as the rail trail will no longer connect to it.
* 20 years of careful planning and approval for this project to help revitalize downtown will have been essentially wasted.
* Businesses will lose thousands of dollars in revenue from construction workers who will be in town to build the rail trail and who will patronize local restaurants.
* Countless families will be robbed of a recreational opportunity to get out and enjoy our city.
* All chances of capitalizing on the planned bike-friendly thoroughfare that stretches from Northampton to the south shore of Connecticut will be lost.
* A way to connect the Western Avenue bike path to the north-south bike path.
* A more beautiful, functional downtown that helps restore civic pride and generates excitement. There’s simply no way to put a dollar value on this.
And that’s why I am completely opposed to slashing the city’s engineering department budget. But I am only one person on the city council. We need six more votes to ensure that funding for this project remains in tact. I ask that you please call or email your ward representatives and the at-large councilors to politely ask them to oppose any cuts to the engineering department’s operating budget. We will likely vote on it this Thursday so time is short.
Contact information for the other city councilors is as follows:
Babinski, Mary Ann (Ward 1)
Figy, Ralph (Ward 2)
O’Connell, Mary (Ward 4)
Onyski, Bill (Ward 6)
Paul, Bob (Ward 5)
Surprise, Andrew (Ward 3)
Thank you so much for your attention to this matter of vital importance to our city’s future.
Westfield City Councilor, At-Large