WESTFIELD – At the Feb. 2 meeting, the Finance subcommittee recommended a transfer from stabilization of $1 million to engineering for road work, and $46,028 to the Technology Center for increased personnel. The recommendations will now go to the City Council for a vote Feb. 4.
The committee members are Ralph Figy, Richard K. Sullivan Jr. and Bridget Matthews-Kane
City Engineer Mark Cressotti said the $1 million request is to mill and overlay City View Boulevard for $430,000, Hillside Road for $300,000, and reconstruction of portions of Union Street sidewalks for $270,000.
Sullivan asked Cressotti how these particular projects were chosen. Cressotti said City View and Hillside were on the pavement management program and public work’s lists for road work, but didn’t make the budget this year as priority was given to higher traveled roads. He said since they are not total reconstructions, they are reasonably priced to fit within the $1 million planned expenditure on roads.
“Given the mayor’s intent when these funds became available, the mayor’s intent was to enhance and add to the effort this year, and these roads were on the list,” Cressotti said.
Cressotti said the sidewalks on Union Street have been looked at for some time. He said they are heavily used by residents coming from Powdermill Village, and there are transit stops on both sides of the road. He also said the road crossing at Powdermill VIllage is deficient, and there are no sidewalks on the south side at that location. Cressotti said he will be supplementing the funds from stabilization with engineering department funds.
Sullivan asked if there had been a public hearing or public notice to homeowners concerning the project. Cressotti said they would organize a public outreach.
Information Technology Manager Lenore Bernashe detailed the $46,028 from stabilization for
three positions. She said she is looking for $15,000-plus to help pay for one full-time technician position at a salary of $45,000. Another $8,000 would increase hours for a current hourly part-time position.
A $22,500 salary, plus mileage, would add to a database administrative position at a salary of $60,000 to $70,000 a year, which she said is in her budget but not currently funded. Bernashe said the Tech Center is looking at a MUNIS upgrade of three levels that will take up to a year to prepare and transition for. She said they would also like to expand the use of MUNIS in the city. “There are options that could use additional training and expansion, but we don’t have anyone to help departments out with them,” she said.
Sullivan asked whether Bernashe felt she could find qualified, talented individuals at the salary range. She said they have done some work with the personnel department in the past, and the salaries are higher than they used to be.
Sullivan then asked City Auditor Vicki Leigh Moro why the funding for the positions was coming out of stabilization, since they are going to be a recurring cost, rather than free cash.
Moro said she had suggested stabilization, because when the budget was set, the city was conservative in its cherry sheet revenue projections, and when they came in higher than projected, the surplus had been put in stabilization. She said if the budget for the Tech Center had been $100,000 higher, the positions would have been included in the budget.
“If we had been right on the money with revenue projections, it would have been in the budget to begin with. If we knew what we were going to get in state aid, she probably would have gotten one if not all of these positions,” Moro said.
Figy asked Bernashe if these positions would be enough.
“In a perfect world, I would have asked for two or three more. We went from 1,500 [city-supplied] chromebooks to 7,600; 5,000 to students and their parents, the ones who are calling us,” Bernashe said. She said with the number of chromebooks coming back for repair, they are very busy at the Tech Center.
“I don’t think this will be the end of me asking for more bodies. But this will be a good start for me,” Bernashe said, adding that she has to do some work on restructuring that will also help in the long run.
The motion to approve passed, and Figy said it would go to the council on Feb. 4 for its approval. He said both requests would require nine votes in the Council because they are coming out of stabilization.