Westfield seeks city board members

WESTFIELD – Citizens appointed to municipal boards and commission comprise a substantial part of city government, overseeing departments with million dollar budgets.
Those citizens serve the community for a stipend, yet, in some cases, contribute their time far beyond the minimum requirement of attending commission and board sessions.
The city has 28 boards and commissions, ranging from the Airport Commission to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Mayoral administrations are constantly challenged to find citizens willing to serve, to give up their time, and occasionally anonymity, for the benefit of the community.
Filling vacancies on boards is often just a matter of finding a resident willing to accept that responsibility, but many of the commissions, such as the Planning Board and the Park & Recreation Commission members, are appointed to represent one of the city’s six wards, restricting the possible candidate population to the ward.
Most boards are low-key, while others, such as the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, both special permit issuing boards, are lightning rods for litigation and legal challenges. The Water Commission and the Board of Public Works are often the target of public outcry and City Council scrutiny.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik informed the City Council last week that two members of the Flood Control Commission resigned. That board has become high-profile municipal agency because of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood plane review process and the city’s need to improve levees, at a cost of more than $2 million. Those resignations have dropped the seven-person board down to four members.
Knapik is also seeking citizens to serve on the Planning Board, Arts Council, and to reestablish the entire seven-member Cable Television Commission.
Thursday, at the Dec. 1, City Council session, Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell sponsored a motion at the request of the Commission for Citizens with Disabilities to expand that five-member board by two.
Knapik said this morning that he will request the City Council to look at the structure of boards and commissions when it moves into the second phase of the City Charter review process next year.
“I think that the charter review could lead to realignment that combines some of these boards and eliminates other entirely,” Knapik said. “We need to take a thoughtful look at all of the city’s boards and commissions and their specific functions.
“An example is that we could combine the functions of the Flood Control Commission and the Board of Public Works,” he said. “The city engineer is the key agent for both of those boards.
“There have also been changes in state law, creation of new state agencies that have eliminated the need for some municipal entities,” Knapik said.
Residents interested in serving on a municipal board can contact Knapik at 572-6201.

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