Questions on Wells 7 and 8 to be answered at Special City Council meeting

Westfield City Hall

WESTFIELD – At the July 2 City Council meeting, several councilors objected to the decision by Mayor Donald F. Humason, Jr. to delay the appearance of Department of Public Works Director David Billips to answer questions regarding Wells 7 and 8, which went online on June 29.
At-large Councilor Dan Allie said that a letter from the Mayor, who was present on the teleconference, stated that the Council has the right to question department heads, but the list of questions that were submitted went far beyond the scope of an update. The letter from the Mayor also stated that he had not been sent the questions to review.
“My letter is incorrect. The email was sent to my office containing the questions on Friday afternoon (June 26) last week. I didn’t see it,” Humason said. He added that he had met prior to the City Council meeting with Billips and City Attorney Shanna Reed, who had issues with some of the questions due to ongoing litigation with the wells.
“The director is willing to come in, and is happy to do that. Unfortunately, tonight is not going to work,” Humason told the council.
Said At-large Councilor Kristen Mello: “That letter that we received was insulting. I emailed your email account. You received my questions. Residents took time to make those questions. You are in violation of the Charter by not answering these questions. I am furious. We will get the answers to those questions. This is unacceptable to the people who have been poisoned by people earning a lot of money in this city.”
At-large Councilor Rick Sullivan asked whether Billips would be coming to the next meeting, scheduled for August 26. “It was a little unclear when the Council will get the answers to the questions that were sent,” he said.
Humason said Billips was willing to come in, but he didn’t know when.
“We have a process. We followed the process. We turned the emails in a timely manner. I believe they have a right to be upset about this. We met all the requirements of the Charter. I support Councilor Mello, she works hard on this stuff. I don’t see any reason why the director can’t answer every question,” said At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty, adding that another Zoom meeting could be scheduled at an earlier date.
“We need to be a little bit careful here,” said Ward 5 Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III. He said that the Council had been briefed in an executive session about some of the matters raised in the questions, while acknowledging that there are new councilors that were not present. “The questions that are asked are some things that he may not be able to answer. Be careful where we go,” he said.
“Water quality and water safety in Westfield is a very important issue. As a Ward 1 councilor, I’m certainly disappointed that we didn’t get the answers tonight, disappointed for myself and residents that submitted questions. I know Mr. Mayor that you will do due diligence with the director, and get answers as soon as possible. I’m not looking forward to an extra meeting, but I will do a special meeting on water. I look forward to the answers very soon,” said Ward 1 Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr.
At-large Councilor James Adams raised a procedural question as to whether or not requests for appearances by department heads should go through the Mayor’s office. He said he didn’t have the answer.
Flaherty responded that individual councilors should not be asking for department heads to come in, but should make a motion to the council as a whole, which had been followed.
“I’d like to see the councilor who makes the motion to speak to the mayor and make sure that things move forward. The email sometimes gets lost. Let that person call the mayor and make sure that everything is in place,” Adams said.
Ward 4 Councilor Mike Burns expressed concern that the current conversation would indicate there is a problem with the wells. “According to this report, the water is safe, and the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) has approved it,” Burns said, adding that maybe another executive session should be scheduled before the next meeting.
Council President Brent B. Bean II said he would poll the councilors, and find a date for a meeting when everyone who wants to be there is available. “I will say some of the questions will be a concern. There might be some questions that do not get answered. We do allow our Law Department to give us direction on these things,” he said.
Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy motioned to schedule a special meeting at the convenience of council to address questions on Wells 7 and 8, and to include the Law Department, which passed.

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