|By Erin O'Connor|
WESTFIELD - Investigations are perceived by local officials not to be halting the progress of the planned Intermodal Transportation Center for downtown Westfield.
"It is moving forward but it is going slower then everyone would like it to go," Mayor Richard Sullivan said to Reminder Publications last week regarding the progress of the Center. "I am the eternal optimist and I believe progress will happen within the next couple months."
The Center, according to the mayor will house a transportation facility that is run by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) and a hotel proposed by John Reed LLC.
"From our (PVTA) perspective we are proud to be a part of a transit project that will enhance transportation for the city and the region," Richard J. Kos, the Interim Administrator for PVTA, said.
Kos received notification recently from the Federal Transit Administration(FTA) that Deva and Associates, P.C. will be conducting a Financial Management Oversight (FMO) review of two projects of the PVTA, one of them being the Westfield Intermodal Center. He is not worried about the investigation. The other project that the FTA will be investigating under the PVTA includes the Holyoke Intermodal.
"It is a continuation of the Union Station investigations (in Springfield) that took place in 2005," Kos said. "I think that the audit is pretty important that as this project moves forward a firm financial base should be in place and if there are issues it is better to know now then later."
The Intermodal Center has been something buzzing in the minds of local citizens for a few years now.
In September of 2002 then State Representative for Westfield Cele Hahn asked the question, "What Does Westfield Need?" A study was done by the Lower Pioneer Valley Resource Library Prevention Services (LPVRLPS).
The LPVRLPS organized a meeting of Westfield people that represented organizations that included Noble Hospital, the Fire and Police Departments, Council on Aging, YMCA, and Clergy Association. One major item that was proposed in this research was an Intermodal Center for Westfield.
In 2004 this item was a Massachusetts fiscal year earmark proposed by the Departments of Transportation and the Treasury for an Appropriations Bill. The amount awarded to the Center close to $3.4 Million.
"Ultimately it is going to be a huge project for the city and in particular for the downtown to include a hotel from a member of the private district. It will be a signature building and a signature hotel. It will bring a lot of business in." Sullivan said.
The Signature hotel will be handled by John Reed LLC a local Westfield Company. Reed was unavailable for comment.
Investigations by the FTA of the PVTA began in December of last year when the offices were raided by the FBI, the IRS and department of transportation officials who had questions about misappropriated funds through then PVTA head Gary Shepard.