Humason talks COVID-19, Chapter 90 and more
WESTFIELD – Mayor Donald F. Humason, Jr. met with the outgoing and incoming directors of Governor Charlie D. Baker’s Western Massachusetts office in City Hall last week and advocated for funding for the city.
Humason advocated for a timely state budget, increased local aid for city departments and schools, more Chapter 90 funding for road projects, state assistance for PFAS mitigation and cleanup, and for a regional Covid testing center in Westfield on the campus of Westfield State University.
Humason met with former Director Patrick Carnavale, who is leaving the position to return to his post with the Mass Emergency Management Agency, and incoming Director Jose Delgado, who has worked in government and most recently for the MGM Casino in Springfield.
The Westfield News asked the mayor about some of the issues he brought to the forefront with the governor’s staff.
Regarding testing sites, Humason agreed with Public Health Director Joseph Rouse’s recent statement that additional free testing sites in the city would cost $50,000 per day, and he would rather focus on vaccines and the distribution.
“If the state is looking to set centers up, as I guess they are in my conversation with Pat and Jose, Westfield State could be a great location,” Humason said. He said the university has offered their parking lot for testing, if the state would pay for it.
Humason said this topic was one among many they talked about.
“Most importantly, I don’t want the state to do a repeat of this year and finish the budget in December,” he said, adding that as mayor he needs to start setting up his budget now, and will need to know the local numbers for state aid.
Humason said he would like to see the governor increase Chapter 90 funding to cities and towns for roads and infrastructure. “For years, the governor has done $200 million a year. I’d like to see it increase to $300 million or more,” he said, adding that Gov. Baker did increase Ch. 90 to $300 million only one time in his first year in office, something Humason as a legislator along with his fellow legislators had been advocating governors in Massachusetts to do for years.
“Now the budget has gotten even bigger, and there’s room to increase Chapter 90 money to cities and towns,” Humason said, noting that Westfield, a 350 year old city has over 300 miles of road. “That’s why I’m asking the representatives of the governor’s office for multi-year funding for larger construction projects that last for more than one year,” which he said is something he also fought for as a legislator.
During the meeting, Humason also extended an invitation to the Governor and Lt. Governor and their cabinet officials to visit the Whip City. He said he hasn’t seen them in awhile, and wants to make sure they know they’re welcome.
One idea he has is to invite them for the summer opening of the Rail Trail’s central section downtown.
“We’re going to be unique in New England and on the East Coast with an elevated Rail Trail,” Humason said, adding that it will be the best view around, one that he relished as a kid when he used to walk the train tracks. He said the Rail Trail will bring people into Westfield from all over the place, and he wants to draw attention to the city as a place for people using the trail to stop in and spend time.
“My goal is to promote Westfield as a destination to shop, eat, go to the breweries, take pictures along the Rail Trail. It all ties in – good roads, good schools, safe streets, good extracurricular activities – all of those have been hampered (by COVID). There is light at the end of the tunnel – the vaccine is out there and spring is coming. As we move beyond the pandemic, I want to be ready for what comes next,” Humason said.
He said he held an online meeting with department heads to talk about that point. “I just want us to be ready to hit the ground running when this is over. The minute the governor or federal government says you’re good to go, then business is open. Come to Westfield. It’s a great place to live, work and play, and we want to make it better. Every mayor and councilor has the same goal. We’re lucky, because we start from a good place, but we’re always improving,” Humason said.
The mayor said he is also meeting in a couple of weeks with Sen. John Velis and Rep. Kelly Pease to talk about what he hopes they can do to help municipalities as legislators. “I want to communicate (all this) with them, too, so we’re all on the same page,” Humason said.