To the Editor,
Hello and Thank you for considering me for your vote for Ward 6 Councilor.
I do appreciate your interest in trying to learn more about me and my candidacy. It is important for you to know my experience in order for me to be honored with your vote. After meeting many of you in my travels through the Ward 6 neighborhoods, I want to thank all who have welcomed me into your homes and graciously discussed the pertinent issues in Westfield, and my experience and ability to help the city move forward.
A little about me. I am a 34-year resident of Westfield who has stayed behind the scenes in Westfield politics. I have raised two wonderful daughters in this city having each of them go through the Westfield Public School System. Each of them were standout athletes and students having competed on the very strong Westfield Softball teams as pitchers during the early to mid-2000’s. I was active with the little league program and was on their board of directors, as well as the board of directors for what was Camp for Kids. I also coached many travel softball teams from ages 14 to college level teams at the 23 year age group.
I have recently retired from a career as the Public Works Director in Chicopee and Southwick for the past fourteen years. In Chicopee I ran nine departments including Highway, Drinking Water, Waste Water, Flood Control, Engineering, Parks and Cemeteries, Trash Removal (sanitation), Forestry, and the Central Maintenance Garage. This involved 30 million dollars in annual budget, 150 employees with union affiliation, hundreds of millions of dollars in annual capital projects, and coordination with every city department for the smooth running of the city on a daily basis 24-hours a day. I was a member of the Joint Transportation Committee that is an advisory committee to the voting Metropolitan Planning Organization. This affiliation essentially planned and coordinated the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money that was granted to the Pioneer Valley and all of its cities and towns for the specific purpose of road and bridge rehabilitation. These organizations plan and coordinate the spending of millions of dollars of federal assistance to Western Mass.
I represented Chicopee and Southwick on these committees. I hold a Water Operators License with the State of Massachusetts. This license allowed me to be the responsible and libelous person in the running of the Southwick and Chicopee Drinking Water Systems. This responsibility entails a great deal of chemistry and biology and engineering experience in order to make the correct decisions in order to keep drinking water safe to use and consume by the residents.
Prior to my work as a DPW Director I spent 23 years in the commercial construction business as an engineer, chief estimator and project manager. Many of the buildings and structures that you are familiar with in your daily travels throughout the Pioneer Valley were constructed by teams of people that included myself. I have engineering degrees in civil engineering from STCC, and Architectural Engineering from Wentworth Institute of Technology, and I have worked as a structural engineer designer in Cambridge Ma. prior to my returning to the Western MA area in 1985. I hold a Construction Supervisors License Unlimited with the State of Massachusetts. Through all this experience I have advised the political position holders in Chicopee and Southwick involving millions of dollars of annual budgeting and spending on projects, and managed hundreds of millions of dollars of projects over my career.
Why have I decided to run for Ward 6 City Council? Our Water System has been jeopardized by the very federal government that is supposed to protect us. Each and every city and town that lives over the aquifer that supplies hundreds of thousands of people with drinking water has planning and building regulations that are specific to the protection of the aquifer. Examples, regulations restricting underground storage tanks, regulation that restrict fertilizer production and storage, regulation restricting the use of certain chemical production facilities, all within the aquifer protection zone as defined by the Department of Environmental Protection in MA.
Reportedly the federal government has not had the same regulatory standards and has contaminated our water supply by the use of firefighting foams used at the Barnes Municipal Airport and Reserve Base for years and years. No regulations. The result is that the City of Westfield, that draws its drinking water from the now contaminated drinking source has no options except to either connect to a neighboring city water source in Holyoke, and or construct decontamination facilities that will treat the water and…maybe… remove the contaminants before it reaches your home. Either of these options comes with a cost. A very big cost, and those decisions have not been totally made yet.
I would like to be part of those decisions by offering my expertise in drinking water operations. I would be the only city councilor with a Water Operators License with the State if elected. I know that the City Mayors Office and DPW Director and Law Department are moving forward with the proper lawsuits in order to recover costs involved with the cleanup though legal action. However, in politics and contractual employment with department heads, and elected officials, and retirements, the players change. In order to have a consistent effort and follow through with the current action by the city, it is important that the city elect and hire people who will have the knowledge and understanding of the problem in order to continue the anticipated long fight for our water systems recovery. I can be part of that consistent effort. I am asking for your vote in order to provide that leadership and continued effort. It is vital that leadership be established. The same election system for city officials that is based on how many friends you have will not solve our problems. It is time for change in the City Council.
Additionally, I am running for City Council because I am concerned about the process by which the city spends its money on road rehabilitation and maintenance. Please do not confuse my concern with me being dissatisfied with the past spending practices on roads. I believe that Ward 6 has been a benefactor of a lot of road spending in recent years. Each and every city and town in Massachusetts receives an annual distribution of money through the laws of the Commonwealth under Chapter 90 of the very laws that govern this great state. The amount that each city and town receives is based on many factors including road miles, population, etc. Westfield receives around 1.2 million dollars each year. My concern is that the choice and approval of projects, and spending management, and the reconciliation of the city spending on these projects is not considered to be part of the City Council business. Currently the City Council is not involved with the chapter 90 road money spending. The Council simply appropriates money for the projects that are selected and approved by three city positions. The Mayor, the City Engineer, and the DPW Director. There is no official ward representation by the city councilors when the projects are chosen or managed. Each ward councilor should have a say in how the Chapter 90 money gets spent and managed.
Another concern that I have heard discussed with many residents, is the truck traffic and its effect on citizen’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Businesses should not interfere with that right to peaceful enjoyment while doing business in residential neighborhoods by traveling their product through those neighborhoods at all hours of the day and night in heavily loaded trucks. I understand that this is an old issue. It is also an issue that has not been solved and needs reanalysis and a new approach that includes enforcement of solutions that may have already been established but not implemented or enforced. There are many other things that we can discuss and solve if you will give me a chance with your vote of confidence on November 5. I would be honored to represent you in Ward 6. Thank you very much for your consideration and anticipated vote.
Jeffrey A. Neece