L&O issues go to City Council

WESTFIELD – The Legislative & Ordinance Committee voted Monday night to present five issues to the full City Council at its April 5 session.
The L&O members discussed a total of 10 issues pending in that committee, but voted to keep five in committee for further research before those items are brought out onto the council floor for discussion.
The committee members voted unanimously to present a revised City Charter to the council, with the request that a vote be taken to submit a home-rule petition to the state Legislature to amend the document that establishes city government. The Charter has not been substantially changed since it was originally approved by the Legislature in 1920 and needs to be revised to reflect changes in state and federal law that have occurred over the last 90 years.
The L&O, in conjunction with the ad hoc Charter and Rules Committee, has taken a two phased approach to revising the Charter. Phase one, the current document, will bring the Charter into compliance with current laws and better reflect the current city government.
Phase two may contain recommendations for substantive changes to that current governmental structure, such a terms of office and changes to departmental structure, and will be a much more complicated process because it may require any change be submitted to city residents through referendums.
The committees, at the suggestion of Attorney Peter Martin, the former Law Department supervisor, now retired, who was hired to assist with the Charter revision process, have already submitted the draft to the Legislature’s legal staff for an informal review. The state attorneys suggested that the draft document be reviewed by the School Committee and the Municipal Light Board, both of which are established through specific state laws.
The School Committee and administrators endorsed the draft documents, while the Municipal Light Board request minor amendments to better define the process for filling a vacancy on the board. Language was added to the draft to mirror the process for filling a vacancy on the School Committee.
The L&O requested Martin to submit the latest draft revision to City Clerk Karen Fanion so that the council members can study the document prior to the April 5 meeting.
“I’d like to send out the revised document to all of the (City) Council members so we can stay with the policy of making amendments at the first reading of a resolution,” Ward 2 Councilor James E. Brown Jr., who is also the L&O chairman, said.
The committee 3-1 to make a positive recommendation to the full council to act on a Law Department request to make members of the Cable Television Commission special municipal employees. The Law Department, in an opinion electronically sent to Brown, reported that the designation has to be given to the board, and not specific board members, under state law.
Brown said the purpose of the recommendation is to protect members of the Cable Commission because under current state conflict of interest laws they would be limited in dealing with other boards and department, including bidding for contracts.
“If an attorney was brought onto the commission to help review the contract, that attorney would be restricted from doing business with the city, even representing a client before another board,” Brown said.
Mary O’Connell voted against bringing out the issue without additional review and study of the state law cited in the Law Department opinion.
The L&O also voted to give positive recommendation to the City Council to approve two permanent easements offered by the owners of the Shaker Farms Country Club to construct a 60-vehicle parking lot and access road to the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail; to establish a revolving account for the alarm division of the Fire Department for inspection services and equipment; and to revise the city’s banner ordinance to include signs as well.
Several other issues, including establishing a deferred compensation stabilization account, eliminating the “No Turn On Red” on Elm Street for vehicles waiting to make a left turn in front of Holy Trinity Church to access Meadow Street and Union Avenue, increasing retirees allowance from $250 to $500 and adopting an ordinance to create the position of city constables, will all be kept in committee for further review and research.

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