WESTFIELD – In its first reading in front of the Westfield City Council, the motion to transfer the care and custody of Ponders Hollow Road from the Fire Department to the Parks and Recreation Department was approved on July 2.
Though the final reading of the motion has yet to be voted on, this is the first step in a long awaited issue.
The land transfer has been closely tied with the proposed construction of the new elementary school at Ashley and Cross Streets. Parents of students who attended Juniper Park Elementary School and will be attending Russell Elementary School in the fall came out to voice their support of the motion.
Several members of the community took advantage of the public speak portion of the meeting to express concern with the stalled process.
While the vote at the meeting does not guarantee that a school will be built, it does give the initial positive recommendation to put the land into the hands of the Parks and Recreation Department, which will be able to maintain it.
The first vote, which needed nine to go through, passed 9-4. Councilors Dan Allie, David Flaherty, Cindy Harris and Mary O’Connell voted against the motion, citing questions of legality.
Many of the remaining councilors said that there is no way to know what the land will become until after the responsibility of the parcel has switched from the Fire Department to the Parks and Recreation Department.
“The land transfer, regardless, will stand, and I think the land is better off in the hands of the Parks and Recreation Department than it is in the Fire Department,” Councilor Christopher Keefe. “Whatever comes after that is the usual nonsense.”
The City Council will take a final vote on the land transfer at its Aug. 20 meeting.
While accepting the first reading of the land transfer motion, the City Council voted not to suspend the rules to allow for discussion on two resolutions which would accept local meals and hotel taxes.
The resolutions, brought forth by Mayor Daniel Knapik, would allow for a .75 percent increase in the local meal tax and raise the local room tax 2 percent, to the maximum of 6 percent.
According to the Knapik’s budget narrative, the increase in the meal tax would create $300,000 in additional revenue for the city, while the hotel occupancy tax increase would add $40,000.
The Council needed 10 votes to suspend the rules, as it had previously voted both increases down.