Mayor seeks property purchase

A contractor from Truck Crane Service uses a fire hose to wet the dust and debris from the razing of the city-owned Block Building this week. (Photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

WESTFIELD – Mayor Daniel M. Knapik will request the City Council to take immediate action tomorrow night to approve the acquisition and appropriation of funding for the purchase of land at 76-84 Elm St. currently held by the Hampden Bank.
The bank’s property is located next to the city property at the corner of Elm and Arnold streets, a two-story building that was razed last night and is now a pile of rubble. The city’s plan is to keep the demolition company, Truck Crane Services, and equipment on side until the bank property transfer is complete and that building can be demolished as well, hopefully before Thanksgiving.
City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley said Knapik’s request for immediate consideration is based upon a business model.
“I have a budget and a time line to do this,” Daley said. “If I go outside the timeline, I go outside the budget and that increases the cost to the taxpayers of Westfield.”
“The purchase has to be posted on the central register for 30 days before a dollar can leave the city’s coffers,” Daley said. “The next posting for the register is Oct. 17, so even a two week delay can push this process back a month.  Any New England resident knows that once you get into December, anything could happen with the weather –  snow, ice, freezing temperatures –  things that push up the cost of getting this work done.”
The city and bank were involved in a protracted negotiation because of the wide gap between the bank’s evaluation of the property, and its future use, and the city’s position that the property was a liability because of the possible contamination, already identified in the parking lot behind the building, would also be found under the structure.
Daley said that the city had the building and property appraised.
“The building, as it is now, was valued at $215,000, but that is prior to the cost for renovating the building and any potential environmental clean-up required,” Daley said. “We agreed upon a price of $145,000 and the city takes the responsibility for the environmental mitigation that we’ll do with the state grant funding. It’s a friendly purchase.”
Daley said the bank, in anticipation of approval by the council, has given the city permission to enter the property prior to the final purchase transaction, to begin the environmental assessment and what action will be required for mitigation before the building is demolished by the city following the final sale.
The council will also be asked to take immediate consideration on an appropriation of $75,000 for the purchase. That funding will be transferred from the city’s stabilization account, which requires nine votes, to the economic development account.
Daley said the remaining $70,000 will be funded through the city’s Community Development Block Grant.
“The CDBG includes a Spot Slum and Blight Program that allows the city to use that funding to rid an area of blight, so we’re using $70,000 for the purchase of the blighted property,” Daley said.
“The city won’t own the property until the second week of November, if all goes to plan and there is no delay,” he said. “The goal is to have everything down and removed by Thanksgiving so the environmental remediation contractor can get in there. The environmental cleanup needs to be done during the cold weather.”
“This is a business decision. I have to stay within budget. If we go outside the time frame, we go outside the budget,” Daley said. “Even a delay of two weeks means two more weeks of billings.”

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