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Learning from past, opening up the future, Sullivan delivers State of City

Date: 2/20/2015

WEST SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Edward Sullivan delivered his annual State of the City Address in front of the City Council and its audience members on Feb. 17. Sullivan highlighted the city’s improvements in 2014 but emphasized that there was much more work to be done in 2015.

Hanging over the list of West Springfield’s accomplishments were themes of transparency and efficiency.

Sullivan stressed the efforts the city has made to make the budget and spending was open to the public, and it is something that has paid dividends already.

“There were financial policies created to ensure that the missteps of the past would not be repeated in the future. The city’s checkbook, displaying all the city’s expenditures was put online for all the world to see,” Sullivan said. “This transparency, along with the other financial practices, help to insure our bond rating would be increased by the financial group from Standard & Poor’s. Our current rating is AA, increased from AA-.”

This was especially important because loans were taken out for the new high school and library.

The result of this has been positive, Sullivan said.

“We addressed this by making efficiencies within the town’s operation and now West Springfield has a structurally sound operating budget. Moving forward, the budget – mayor’s office, the council – we own that,” he said.

While the Sullivan and the council have taken over the reigns on the budget side of operations, that is not the only way the two have been working together. Sullivan said that communications between his office and the council chambers have been open and the working relationship is strong.

“I do want to note that since the city has changed its charter, we haven’t had so many ordinances drafted and approved since the first year of the council. They’re doing impressive work, so kudos to the Town Council.”

Some of these approved ordinances include, the Tree Committee ordinance, the Veterans Multimember Board ordinance, the Watershed protection and enforcement ordinance and the Towing ordinance.

West Springfield will also see the completion of long-awaited projects in 2015, according to Sullivan. The third floor of the municipal office building will be completed and the detective bureaus will move into that space. While it is still to be decided how the Elks Club purchased by the city will be utilized, the outdoor pavilion will be available for public use in the spring.

The city also saw the creation of several new positions in 2014, including town attorney, an economic development director, a health and safety officer/manager and an energy manager, who’s 50 percent funded by a state grant.

Sullivan said that the energy manager position has already paid for itself with the net metering agreement with Kearsarge Energy signed in January. This agreement will save the city at least $110,000 annually in electricity and is just one step in making West Springfield a “green” city.

“We’ll continue to advance projects that are green-friendly, ultimately reaching our goal of a green community designation,” Sullivan said. “Once this work is complete, the city will be able to avail itself to numerous grant opportunities.“

In addition to bringing new faces into Town Hall, Sullivan said 2015 is the year that they will solidify three positions in the schools – a permanent superintendent and two principals, one at the middle school and another at Fausey Elementary School.

Sullivan’s remarks were greeted by applause from the council and members of the audience, leaving by saying that West Springfield has come far in a year but there is much more to be done.

“As elected officials, we have our work cut out for us. I am confident – together – we will be able to address these challenged and continue to add to, protect and improve the quality of life in West Springfield,” Sullivan said. “I truly look forward to working with everyone toward another rewarding year.