Wastewater deal between Westfield and Southwick approved

WESTFIELD – The City Council approved a resolution in support of Mayor Brian J. Sullivan entering into an inter-municipal agreement with the Town of Southwick, which allows the Westfield Water Treatment Plant to treat and dispose of that town’s wastewater.
Under the agreement, the Town of Southwick is considered a commercial ratepayer for tapping into a waterline owned by Westfield.
The city performed upgrades on the Wastewater Treatment Plant 15 years ago. Southwick paid a portion of construction costs. The town continues to make payments on the original bond.
In addition to being charged a commercial rate, Southwick pays an extra 10 percent to cover other costs. A letter of agreement also outlines a $20 million bond authorization for future infrastructure work on the plant.
Several councilors sought a delay in approving the resolution.
Councilor Mary J. O’Connell said the city entered into the agreement in the 1990s that allowed Southwick to send wastewater through a separate pipe. The town pays a commercial rate equal to Westfield’s plus the 10 percent.
The agreement is a self-renewing contract between the two municipalities.
She said constituents in her ward see “Southwick taking advantage of the system.” O’Connell called the agreement fair and that a meeting has been arranged between Sullivan and the Southwick Select Board. She added that the resolution was meant as a show of support by the City Council prior to Sullivan’s meeting.
At-Large Councilor Daniel Knapik requested the council hold off on the resolution vote, but still allow the mayor to meet with Southwick officials.
“The last time we negotiated this from the beginning, the council president at that time selected the member of the city council to accompany the mayor on the mayor’s behalf,” he said.
He asked the council to appoint a member to assist the mayor in any negotiations.
O’Connell, whose ward borders Southwick, said the mayor did extend an invitation to her and to a Water Department representative. Councilor Robert Paul Sr. agreed with Knapik’s recommendation.
Councilor Dave Flaherty felt uneasy with the City of Westfield entering into negotiations with Southwick that might include a discount, especially after the City Council’s recent increase in sewer fees for Westfield ratepayers.
“I don’t like that concept at all. The cost to operate this plant is expensive and the rates are going to go up. It’s not fair to give discounts to our neighbors,” said Flaherty.
Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski urged her colleagues to approve the resolution, which would allow Sullivan to enter negotiations behind a united front. She added it was premature for the council to assume what Southwick officials want from the meeting.
Water Resources Superintendent David Billups said Westfield and Southwick continue to have a good working relationship. A majority of councilors approved the resolution.
The meeting between Sullivan and Southwick officials is scheduled for next week.

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