WESTFIELD – The City Council meeting on Monday, which began with a moment of silence for the loss of former councilors Lynn Boscher and David A. Bannish; proceeded at a fast pace to move all items on the agenda, with little debate and more unanimity than has been shown in recent months.
During public participation, Council on Aging director Tina Gorman announced the start of Retire the Fire week, which focuses on public safety, and this year will highlight seniors in the community with Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments. She asked the councilors to assist her in blanketing the city with flyers.
Gorman also said that some smoke detectors are available at the COA for seniors on limited incomes through the Senior SAFE program grants, and new house numbers which the Rotary Club will install. She thanked Acting Fire Chief Patrick Egloff for his assistance, and remembered Lynn Boscher, who served as the liaison between the COA and the Rotary Club on the house numbering and other programs. She said Board of Health Director Joseph Rouse will step into the role that Lynn Boscher had served.
All of the financial requests from the Mayor’s office were referred to the Finance sub-committee for review, including two requests for appropriations to convert clay tennis courts into pickleball courts at the Municipal Courts on Franklin St.
Authorizations for the Superintendent of Schools to submit Statements of Interest for renovations and additions at Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) both passed unanimously 11-0, as Councilors Dan Allie and Dave Flaherty were absent from the meeting. Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski, who presented the motions for immediate consideration, said the SOI’s were primarily to keep the requests current with the MSBA.
At-large Councilor Cindy C. Harris, who chairs the Personnel Action Committee, also presented a long list of reappointments and appointments to committees and commissions under immediate consideration, which all passed unanimously.
Council President Ralph J. Figy thanked all of the members of the Boards and Commissions who were giving their time. He said even those who were paid, were not paid enough.
A petition for a zoning amendment from the Planning Board to strengthen the regulation of marijuana establishments by prohibiting them within 500 feet of a park was referred to the Zoning, Planning and Development committee, chaired by At-large Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr. A public hearing on the petition will be scheduled for the City Council meeting on March 21.
Reporting from the Finance sub-committee, Chairman Brent B. Bean, II, withdrew the $1 million Bond order request for recreation and athletic fields and parks. He said there were issues with building the basketball courts at the Boys & Girls club and the All-Abled playground on Cross St. intended to be funded with the bond.
The Council approved the other items from the Finance committee, including $130,000 from Public Works, Stormwater Division for pre-treatment of stormwater for the Western Ave. project. Finance committee member John J. Beltrandi, III said the city was “on the hook” for the pre-treatment. He said the DPW is looking at savings in other areas.
Beltrandi also brought forward from Finance a recommendation for $525,000 from Free Cash to replace the 22-year-old odor scrubber at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Beltrandi said Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Gamelli gave a strong presentation on the need to upgrade the system at the DPW meeting, and said the upgrades will save the city money in the long term.
Bean said some residents with septic systems had questioned why they should have to pay for sewer. He said when the haulers come through to empty the septic tanks, they are still dumped into the sewer system. “Everybody is part of this process,” Bean said.
Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise shared a comment on behalf of Flaherty, who raised an objection to the money coming from Free Cash instead of sewer fees. He also acknowledged that residents on septic don’t think they should pay for sewer, but that DPW Director David Billips had explained that the sludge from septic tanks was more costly to process, although they receive it less frequently.
Figy said the replacement of the odor scrubber was good news for residents of Ward 2. “I get many calls in the summer about odor,” he said. The allocation from Free Cash passed unanimously.
The Council voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to sign a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Sunfarm Westfield, LLC and Stephen P. and Susan M. Oleksak, for a solar array on the property of 994 Western Ave. Morganelli reported that the just under 10-acre array sits at the back of the Oleksak lumber yard was not visible from the road, and will net the city $29,999 for the next 25 years.
Several other potentially contentious items from the L&O committee were dispatched in short order. Before discussion could begin on a resolution to authorize the Mayor to sign a Host Community Agreement with HEKA for adult use marijuana, which the L&O committee had not recommended; Bean moved to table the item until the March 7 meeting. No discussion can be held on a motion to table, and the motion passed unanimously, effectively emptying the gallery of residents who had come to hear the discussion.
Discussion on a negative recommendation from L&O on a motion to have the Law Department prepare appropriate orders to rescind the local option meals tax was stopped by a Point of Order from Surprise. He said the motion was not a vote on whether to rescind the tax, but on having the Law Department prepare the appropriate orders, which has been done. He said the committee’s response should be to place them on file for use if needed at a later date, not to bring them forward for a vote by the City Council.
After further clarification, the papers were placed on file.
The City Council also granted final passage to authorize the consumption of alcohol on school, park or playground property only by lease or agreement; and to move four items from the special permitting authority of the City Council to the Planning Board.
Several councilors said all of the city zoning would be under review in sub-committees this year.