Westfield’s budget review process wrapping up

WESTFIELD – The City Council’s Finance Committee concluded its review of departmental budgets last night with interviews with officials of the Department of Public Works, Park & Recreation, the Health Department and the Water Resource Department.
The Finance Committee will meet Monday to discuss budget cuts. If any cuts are approved by the three-member Finance Committee, they will be presented to the City Council Committee of the Whole Tuesday night, when all 13 council members review the $126,104,668.44 budget, as submitted by Mayor Daniel M. Knapik, a 1.56 percent increase over the 2012 funding package.
Further cuts can be proposed by any council member during the Committee of the Whole session Tuesday night, but must gain the support of a majority of the council, seven members, to gain approval.
The council will meet Wednesday to vote on the 2013 fiscal year budget as presented by Knapik or modified Tuesday night by the Committee of the Whole.
DPW Superintendent Jim Mulvenna presented the budgets of divisions within his department: highway, solid waste, natural resources, sewer and stormwater management.
Mulvenna said the highway division, which includes the snow and ice line item, was cut by a total of $32,000. However, some line items were increased and others cut. The purchase of services account took the largest hit, of $50,000.
The department is allowed to deficit spend for the snow and ice removal line item. While the city had only two significant snow events this year, the October storm consumed the line item funding and pushed the account into a deficit which totaled more than $1 million because the brush removal and clean-up effort following that storm was included in that line item.
“We ended up with 130,000 cubic yards of brush (chips),” Mulvenna said. “The brush removal was paid out of the snow and ice account. We did qualify for an $800,000 reimbursement from FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), but when that will come in I don’t know. We’re still waiting for the (June 1) tornado reimbursement.”
Mulvenna said that funding for highway and solid waste trucks was removed from his proposed budget and that Knapik plans to include those purchases, as well as vehicles for other departments, in a capital equipment bond request later in the year.
Mulvenna said that he hired back the last of three employees laid off two years ago and does not anticipate a further reduction in the department’s workforce. Ward 5 Councilor Richard E. Onofrey, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the DPW has taken budget cuts for years and there is a desire to return funding to the department’s budget, but that will not happen this year because of the city’s budgetary constraints.
“You do more with less every year,” Onofrey said to Mulvenna. “You give us more and do a good job with limited resources.”
Health Director Michael Suckau presented his department’s budget, which also includes several subdivisions.
Suckau said the city is expanding services, some of which are state mandated. The department will institute a sharps collection program after July 1, 2012, giving residents a means of collecting sharp medical instruments used by residents in treatment of a number of medical conditions, for injections, and to draw blood for testing.
Suckau said the state passed a law in 2010, but communities are now being required to comply. The state has established the law to protect the environment and the health and safety of trash and recycling facility employees from accidental puncture by medical needles and lancets that could result in disease infection. The law also prohibits disposal of medical sharps in recycling programs.
Suckau said the department is also making improvements at the Twiss Street transfer station, including the installation of a prefabricated gatehouse and the hiring of a part time gatekeeper to restrict access to city residents only. Suckau said he hopes to have the gatehouse in place before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
The Health Board recently approved a sticker program which will require residents to purchase a $10 transfer station sticker.
“The sticker program will help us monitor who comes into the facility so we can find out the real numbers,” Suckau said. “This year will be big on data collection for us.”
“My goal is to gain control of the site, find out what we have for activity, then go on from there,” he said.
Onofrey asked Suckau if a single stream recycling program, with paper, cans and bottles all in the same container, is feasible in the city.
Suckau said he has discussed that option with the regional recycling facility in Springfield, but that the cost of purchasing the new containers, similar to those now used for solid waste, may be prohibitive at a cost of more than $500,000.
Suckau said that any program which takes material out of the solid waste stream and increases recycling will result in cost avoidance for trash disposal and increase the revenue the city receives for recycled goods.
The committee also discussed the operational budgets of the Water Resource Department’s Water Division and the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Onofrey questioned the sharp increase in the treatment plan supply account.
Superintendent Dave Billips said the plant is now required to treat wastewater 24/7 and that it is using different chemicals in the treatment process which have increase expenditures in that line item. The budget for that line item is $514,000. Billips said the cost of the primary chemical used in the treatment process is $350,000.
The next step in the budget review process will occur Monday with a committee discussion of the departmental line items and possible funding cuts.

To Top