Legislative & Ordinance moves all but one item out of committee

2019 L&O sub-committee chaired by William Onyski, with members Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr. and Michael Burns. (WNG File Photo)

WESTFIELD – The Legislative & Ordinance sub-committee, chaired by Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski, with members Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr. and Michael Burns, successfully moved all but one item on a long agenda out of committee with unanimous positive recommendations. Remaining in committee to await a revised draft was the short term rental ordinance.
Reviewing a motion from At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty that non-resident employees of Westfield businesses, not just owners, be allowed to serve on boards and commissions, Onyski invited Carly Bannish of the Historical Commission to speak in favor of the ordinance change.
Bannish said the Historical Commission has had a vacancy for over a year, and is an active committee. She said a young man who teaches at Westfield Technical Academy and is a historian has expressed an interest in serving, and would be “a perfect fit.”
In reviewing the proposed ordinance change, Onyski said exclusions included the Fire Commission, Police Commission, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, but he thought more commissions should be excluded, and non-residents be limited to one member. Onyski said the change to allow non-resident business owners to serve came in 2010.
When asked what other boards might be excluded, Attorney Shanna Reed, who drafted the ordinance change, said the Community Preservation Committee might not make sense, because it recommends appropriations to the City Council. Onyski then ran down the list of boards and commissions with the committee members, excluding ones that recommended funding. In the end, only the Cable Television Committee, which is advisory; the Historic Commission, and Parks and Recreation were recommended 3-0 by the committee to allow one non-resident member.
L&O also recommended 3-0 to rescind the $272,000 remaining on a Bond Order to restore and preserve Hangar Two at Westfield Barnes Airport. Onyski said the project was completed, and the funds were not borrowed.
An appropriation of $90,000 from the Community Preservation undesignated account to the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail account, which was unanimously approved by the Community Preservation Committee on April 11, was also recommended by a 3-0 vote.
City Engineer Mark Cressotti said that currently the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is offering a grant of $435,000 to cover the third year of funding that was originally requested from the CPC. The DCR grant is on the City Council’s agenda Thursday for immediate acceptance.
Cressotti said the $90,000 is needed to have the funding in place to cover the cost of easements for right of ways for the Central Downtown section of the trail, but the city will be using the DCR grant to the fullest extent.
Onyski said the Rail Trail, which gets a lot of use, is a great project to use CPC funds dedicated to historical, recreation and open space purposes.
Also recommended were two petitions by Verizon and Westfield Gas and Electric; to place one jointly owned pole on Westwood Drive, and six poles on Western Avenue, related to upcoming roadwork in the area.
The Committee also unanimously recommended a Resolution of the City Council to accept the BRAVE Act, a new state law that will allow for property tax exemption for the full amount of real estate evaluation for surviving parents or guardians of soldiers and sailors, members of the National Guard and Veterans who died as a proximate result of injury suffered in the line of duty. Currently the law allows for an exemption of $400 in property taxes, but voted last August for a local option to allow 100% exemption for Gold Star parents.
Westfield Veteran’s Agent Julie Barnes said she became aware of the local option shortly after taking on her new role in the city, but didn’t act on it because she was not aware of any Gold Star parents in the city. She said she recently became aware of a Gold Star mother living in Westfield who lost her son in active duty twelve years ago, who does currently receive the $400 exemption.
At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris also spoke on behalf of the program, and said she knew the mother in question. She said there is no greater pain than losing a child. “It is so very important for us as citizens to step forward,” Harris said.
“I think this is the least we can do,” said Onyski.
Burns, who said he also served, thanked Barnes for bringing the BRAVE Act forward. He said if there are other Gold Star families the city doesn’t know about, they should come forward.
“Gold Star families deserve the very best we can do for them,” said Morganelli, and made the motion for a positive recommendation.

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