Take My Council, Please: Need Some Help (with the Budget)…
The Springfield City Council zoomed—figuratively and somewhat literally—through its Monday meeting, plowing through a modest agenda with a heavy focus on parks and school buildings. While Parks, Recreation and Facilities Executive Director Patrick Sullivan at the Council is not exactly the Beatles at Shea Stadium, he is among the most popular department heads. Indeed, his department’s items dominated the to-do list and councilors welcomed them.
Sullivan is well-liked because he usually comes to the Council bearing money for projects residents—and therefore councilors—love. Technically, he did not exactly have such a gift Monday. Rather expenses were running high and a statements of interest are not guarantees of new schools. Still, councilors had no qualms approving it all.
At-large Councilor Tracye Whitfield and Ward 1 Councilor Maria Perez were absent. Councilors Malo Brown, Lavar Click-Bruce, Zaida Govan, Justin Hurst and Kateri Walsh participated remotely.
Councilor began the meeting accepting a trio of reports from Finance, Health & Human Services and Public Safety committees.
Comptroller Pat Burns presented councilors with the January revenue and expenditure report. He also informed councilors that he was working with Sullivan to get an update on higher than expected heating and electricity costs.
Councilors accepted a series of grants for the Fire and Elder Affairs departments. Not quite $93,000 will go toward new bomb squad response equipment. Fire Commissioner B.J. Calvi told Councilor Walsh that Springfield has the only bomb squad west of Worcester. However, the city does not respond to other communities when they have potentially explosive situations. The state responds elsewhere.
A grant for $87,328 to Elder Affairs will fund programming including outreach staff.
The Council also greenlit a $50 donation to the Springfield Library for books. All of the funds received approval.
Sullivan had $575,000 in transfers spread across two items. One directs $475,000 from free cash to Parks. The other moves a hundred large from free cash to facilities. Sullivan told the Council the funds will pay for increased costs due to garbage removal from public spaces as well as new equipment at the city golf courses.
He also noted that while snowfall has been low this year, there cycles of fallen moisture icing as temperatures dropped. These exceeded his department’s deicing budget for city buildings and schools. Both transfers passed.
The Council also approved a $60,000 transfer to the Procurement Department to cover advertising costs.
Sullivan also presented the city’s statements of interest for renovations and/or replacements for three city schools. Before the city can forward interest in school projects to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, officials need Council approval. Once at the MSBA, the state can approve a project as proposed, reject it or recommend an alternative. This could be a lesser renovation for a requested replacement or vice-versa.
Two of the statements of interest were for replacements. Both Washington Street and White Street schools were on this list. The city also proposed a major renovation to the Gerena School’s HVAC system. Sullivan observed that the school has had environmental problems before. Due to its location, Gerena also has pumps running constantly to keep out water.
All statements of interest sailed through the Council. The body continued a resolution supporting legislation to support a state jazz song.
With such a brief, uncontroversial agenda, the Council wrapped quickly on Monday. With the mayoral race heating up and two councilors in the race, there is always the possibility that the Council floor could be an arena in that battle. However, aside from a few items Hurst put forward some weeks ago, this has not happened. It may yet or perhaps councilors will continue to collect goodies from the department heads like Sullivan while the mayoral war rages outside City Hall’s walls