Recommendations on Solar and Meals Tax go before full City Council Monday night

Ward 6 City Councilor William Onyski (WNG file photo)

WESTFIELD – Two votes by the Legislative and Ordinance committee that will be going before the full City Council for a vote on Monday night include a 3-0 recommendation to approve a resolution to allow the Mayor to sign a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement for Sunfarm Westfield LLC solar on Western Ave., and a 2-1 recommendation not to rescind the local option meals tax.
City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell spoke to the committee about the PILOT agreement. He said the solar farm will be on 9.61 acres of a 30-acre property, and bring in $29,999 per year for the next 20 years into the city, which he said is most advantageous from a tax perspective.
Mitchell added that the solar project would be selling their power to the Westfield Housing Authority.
In discussing the vote to have the Law Department prepare the necessary papers to rescind within 20 days the local option meals tax, L&O Chair William Onyski said the department had prepared the language. He also said that the meals tax brought in $836,000 last year, more than originally anticipated.

At-Large Councilor Matthew Emmershy.

The discussion followed several other items that were held in committee concerning developing a road and sidewalk repair stabilization fund, and dedicating local meals tax to the fund. The items were held in committee at the request of At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy, who said that Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise could not attend Thursday’s meeting, and wanted to participate in the discussion.
Emmershy also said he didn’t think the committee should vote on whether to rescind the tax before the other discussion took place.
Onyski said he wanted to move forward with the vote on whether to rescind the tax regardless. “My feeling is that no matter what happens here with the special funds, I don’t think we should rescind this,” he said, adding that it was bringing in $830,000 a year, much of which comes from out of town,” he said.

At-Large Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr.

L&O member Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr. also said the motion was tied to the stabilization fund, and said he was reluctant to rescind the tax, although he had not been in favor of it. “I’m not in favor of more taxes. I don’t have a problem rescinding it. I know that’s a loss of revenue,” he said.
L&O member Michael Burns said he was in favor of bringing the recommendation out of committee to the whole Council for a vote. Emmershy said the whole reason the motion was in committee, was due to whether or not the stabilization funds would be created.
“The Council was promised those funds would be put towards roads. If they are not going to their intended purpose, let’s get rid of the tax,” Emmershy said.
Mayor Brian P. Sullivan has said that the funds received have been going to the roads. At a meeting with department heads in November, Sullivan said the city did $5 million of road improvements from different funding sources, more than $1 million of which came from his budget. “We budgeted $400,000, but did $1 million worth of road work,” he said, by adding in meals tax money, which came in above what was estimated. He and the department heads said other work not included in that $1 million was all of the pot hole and infrared work, plus $200,000 work of drainage work on Granville road, crack sealing, and tree work.
On Thursday, Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski said the motion before the L&O committee did not mention anything about the roads. “It just says rescind the tax,” she clarified.
Morganelli said if this money was intended to be used for the stabilization funds several councilors sought to create, it shouldn’t be rescinded just yet.
“My thought is to bring it out,” Onyski said, adding that he wanted to move old items in committee along.
The motion by Burns to rescind the tax was defeated 2-1, with Morganelli voting to rescind. The vote will go to the full City Council on Monday night.

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