Revamped committees seek to clear backlog

WESTFIELD – Several City Council committees with newly assigned members are attempting to clear back logged issues, some of which have lingered for years.
The Finance Committee comprised of At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean II as chairman, Ward 5 Councilor Robert A. Paul Sr., and Ward 6 Councilor Christopher Crean, is meeting at 5:30 p.m. tonight to wade through 15 items on its agenda, mostly transfers within departments, including several to fund accounts from the 2014 and 2013 fiscal years.
The most contentious item on the Finance agenda is consideration of increasing a sewer rate. Paul said that the city has to finance the department to continue to expand the system and connect the “dry” sewer lines to the city’s system.
Developers have been required by the Planning Board to install a dry sewer line in subdivisions for at least two decades with the idea that the city would eventually connect to those lines as it expanded sewer service.
Paul also has suggested that the council institute an “availability” fee for residents who have access to active sewers but who have not connected. That availability fee would not be accessed to residents with dry sewer service.
The Legislative & Ordinance Committee is slated to meet at 6 p.m. tonight to discuss two pending bond requests. That committee is comprised of Ward 2 Councilor Ralph Figy, chairman, with Ward 1 Councilor Christopher Keefe and At-large Councilor Matthew VanHeynigen.
One bond issue, for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant was submitted last fall, but rejected by the then Finance Committee as being too expensive at $1.85 million and was sent back to the executive branch in November.
Water Resource Superintendent Dave Billips reworked the scope of work, which includes replacing the current oversized Turblex blowers with more energy efficient models, and submitted a revised bond request for $1.477 million.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik is also seeking a $334,000 bond to restore and preserve the exterior of Hangar 2 at Barnes Regional Airport. The hangar is considered an historical structure and will be used for the aviation program being instituted at the Westfield Technical Vocational High School.
That program was recently awarded a $1.1 million grant from the state and advocates of the program are also raising funds, primarily from the aviation industry, to refurbish the interior of the hangar and to purchase equipment which will be used by students.
The License Committee voted Wednesday night to give a 3-0 positive recommendation for the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Springfield Restore facility on East Main Street. The group is seeking a junk dealer’s license, required by the city to sell any used items, to operate the store which would sell used furniture and home construction related items.
The only concern raised during the committee meeting was that residents would dump items along the fence of the former Grossman store where the Restore shop will be located, but that concern was assuaged by the Habitat representatives.

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