Westfield Council Passes 2021 Municipal Budget

By REBECCA MEHORTER
For The Leader/Times

WESTFIELD — The Westfield Town Council adopted the 2021 Municipal Budget at its Tuesday evening meeting. The council also approved on second reading the 2021 Special Improvement District (SID) budget and General Ordinance No. 2213, which adjusts the salaries of certain police and fire department employees.

Mayor Shelley Brindle said it has been a budget season “in which we’re incredibly fortunate in spite of the times.” Councilwoman Linda Habgood, who chairs the Finance Policy Committee, thanked the many people who worked on this year’s spending plan and said, “We’re already working on next year’s budget.”

The municipal budget totals $46.6 million, with $29.35 million coming from taxes and $17.27 million from revenues such as parking, municipal court, building and sewer fees. Revenues were down 6.3 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic causing losses in parking and court revenues.

The average assessed home of $800,800 will see an increase of $66 for the municipal portion of the tax bill.

Resident Shawn Mullen expressed concerns with the SID budget, which serves the downtown through the Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC). Town Administrator Jim Gildea said that the budget has been flat at $416,347 for the past few years and that the money is derived from the businesses in the SID, not general Westfield taxpayers. Mr. Gildea said the town funds DWC events because the DWC is an arm of the town and is insured by the town as well.

Councilwoman Habgood highlighted the increased transparency during the budget season for the past few years — including a special email address for resident questions, a FAQ on the website and a public presentation, also posted online, evaluating the past year’s budget and explaining the coming year’s concerns and bright spots.

The council approved a resolution referring 923 Central Avenue to the planning board to review for historic designation. General Ordinance No. 2214, to modify the zoning map in order to designate the home, was adopted on first reading as well. Mayor Brindle said that the homeowner originally came to the planning board requesting a variance with the intention to demolish the home. The board and owner realized the historical significance of the home during the process and worked together to save the house. Mayor Brindle called it a “win-win for the property owner and the town.”

A resolution awarding a contract to Declan O’Scanlon of FSD Enterprises, LLC, for a wireless telecommunications tower lease consultant was passed by the council. The consultant will help the town look into potentially allowing AT&T to install a cell tower at Houlihan/Sid Fay fields in exchange for redoing the parking lot and adding bathrooms to the fields. When Councilman Mark LoGrippo asked Councilman Michael Dardia if he supported building a cell tower, Councilman Dardia said he did not have an opinion yet and would wait to hear from the expert and from studies.

The council also addressed multiple resolutions, awards and events related to sustainability and environmental concerns.

The council approved a resolution to request Union County explore implementation of its deer-management program within a certain area of Ward 3. Councilman David Contract said the area is wooded and borders both Clark and Crandford. He said that the county wants the support of all residents in the area and that he has been unable to work with the other local governments to speak with all the relevant residents. Requesting the county’s help, he said, will assist in organizing the process.

The council also passed a resolution contracting Hatch Mott MacDonald for engineering services to evaluate existing drainage channels in Mindowaskin Park and Fairview Cemetery. The engineer also will develop plans to clean these channels.

Mr. Gildea announced during the conference meeting that the town has been named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, an honor that goes to towns that pay special attention to the protection and care of their trees.

Councilman Contract said that this Saturday, April 24, the town will hold its third annual Earth Day Fair and Free Market, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the South Avenue train station parking lot.
This Sunday, April 25, the Westfield Police Department will host an Autism Family Day from noon to 2 p.m. Emergency vehicles and equipment will be on display, and local author Cindy Gelormini will read her book “Robbie’s World and His SPECTRUM of Adventures” at 1 p.m.

The next Westfield Town Council meeting will take place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11.

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