Take My Council, Please: Someone to Grant Your Wishes…
SPRINGFIELD—Scheduling conflicts prompted a rare regular Council meeting only a week after the last one. Consequently, the agenda was spare especially when compared to the last few. Nonetheless, it included potentially significant staffing items on a key Springfield commission and in the Finance Department.
The Council confirmed William Duquette to the Historical Commission Monday night. The body also approved a budget transfer to partially finance several positions in Finance. Councilors greeted the transfers with enthusiasm as it funded and/or laid the groundwork for realizing top Council priorities.
Ward 7 Councilor Timothy Allen was absent from Monday night’s meeting.
The brief meeting opened with the usual Pledge of Allegiance, although it was led by a clutch of cub and boy scouts. Thereafter, the Council began with reports of committee.
Economic Development Committee chair Adam Gomez, the Ward 1 councilor, reported the recommendation that Duqette be appointed. A resident of Mulberry Street, Duquette was feted as an advocate of the city who had longed to join the Historical Commission. He replaces Benjamin Murphy whom councilors said had left the Commission.
Ward 5 Councilor Marcus Williams also addressed two items in committee. He suggested a parking meter ordinance was on ice after learning its introduction was premature. Williams also announced a General Government Committee meeting on March 21 would review the chief diversity officer ordinance he proposed.
The rest of the meeting passed by quickly. Chief Administrative and Financial Officer Timothy Plante explained a financial transfer to the Parks, Recreation & Buildings Department. Unlike DPW, the staff that clear snow at city buildings and property cannot deficit spend. Should more snow arrive, this money will fund removal from Springfield property.
Another transfer laid the groundwork for the city to restore a grant administrator position to the Finance Department. Partly funded by the federal government—to administer federal grants—the position oversee city grants and helps departments obtain such funding. Last held by Cheryn Wojcik, the position had been defunded as a cost-saving measure after she got another job a few years go.
However, such a post pays for itself. In addition to seeking new funds, this role can ensure the city fully complies with a grant so that it can retain the entire award.
The position’s restoration could facilitate councilors’ wish lists, too. For example, at-large councilor Jesse Lederman, whose background is in environmental activism, praised the decision to place a climate action coordinator position under the new grants administrator.
“Combining it with a grants coordinator is really a very intelligent one,” he said of the decision. The city has developed a climate action plan, but has yet to appoint anybody to enact it.
Another position funded by the transfer were compliance officers for the responsible employer ordinance. The ordinance requires city contractor to make every effort to employ and subcontract to Springfield residents.
Former South End Community Center Executive Director Chae Swan has already begun working within the REO compliance unit. The plan is to create a two-person compliance unit to ensure contractors are following the ordinance and/or living up to any agreements to comply in their contracts.
A years-long effort to revamp the ordinance has been pending. REO oversight committee chair and Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards announced a March 22 Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss a study of the REO.
The final item of the evening capped a process to turnover former Chapman Valve property to budding real estate mogul Roger Roberge and his associates. The Council recently approved a tax incremental financing deal with Roberge. Last Monday, that process ended with the Council signing off on deeding the land to him.
The two financial transfers and the deed all passed the Council on unanimous recorded votes.
The appointment of a grants administrator may prove a particularly significant development. Springfield relies on grants for tons of non-essential, discretionary operations. The new grant administrator can work with departments seeking outside funding as well as other city entities eager to leverage their own funds for bigger grants.
For example, during the debate over the Community Preservation Act, some observed cities and towns have used their CPA funds to attract grant money to fund larger projects.