|By Michelle Symington|
MetroWest Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD Although the winter weather cancelled school and other activities last Tuesday, it did not stop the city from swearing in its newly elected officials.
Mayor Richard Sullivan, City Council members, School Committee members Municipal Light Board members and the Westfield Athenaeum trustee were sworn in by City Clerk Karen Fanion during an inauguration ceremony at North Middle School.
After being sworn into office for his seventh term, Sullivan thanked everyone who attended the ceremony, the Department of Public Works (DPW) for clearing the snow so that the ceremony could take place and all of the family members of elected officials.
He said, without the support system from spouses, children and other family members, "none of us would be able to be on this stage and do what we do. If you weren't patient and understanding, none of us would be here."
Sullivan also congratulated the new city officials who will join the incumbents to serve the city.
He said they will bring "new points of view and new energy to our city."
During Sullivan's speech, he gave a PowerPoint presentation that outlined many projects that have been completed in the city as well as $100 million in projects that are in the design and planning stages.
"This is a very exciting time," he said. "I hope to show that it will be an exciting two years, I believe, in the city of Westfield."
Sullivan explained that $85 million in public works projects have been completed over the past 12 years.
"Over the next two years, we will embark on over $100 million [in projects]," he said.
Sullivan said the many projects in the city would not be possible without the strong working relationship the city has on all levels of government.
He added that most of the projects in his presentation have been worked on over the past eight to 12 years and are in the planning and design stages.
Although all of the projects are separate projects, they all have the common theme of improving traffic and creating better aesthetics in the city.
He added that he hopes to make Westfield a destination and a "better place to live and raise a family in the city."
Sullivan first spoke about a project in the city that has been completed the Route 20 Bridge, which took eight years to design.
He explained that the viaduct of the bridge was listed as one of the 10 worst structures in the Commonwealth.
He said the state had just wanted to replace the viaduct and construction would have closed the bridge during construction.
He said if the state was willing to go to that level, it should look to the future to fix the bottleneck traffic and the Massachusetts Highway Department agreed to replace the viaduct and the bridge without closing it during construction.
"The project has worked out very well," he said.
Sullivan also outlined what he called the "grandaddy of all construction projects," the design and construction of the Great River Bridge which is currently out to bid.
He said he hopes to award the project in early 2006 and to begin construction by the end of the year.
According to Sullivan, the Great River Bridge project would give the city the opportunity to showcase the history and culture of the downtown area as well as provide an area for recreation.
He added that improving the bridge and surrounding area would help people see that the river is not just a "large obstacle" that they have to commute over, but "realize that it is a thing of beauty."
"It will be a place people want to come and see," he said.
He said that the Great River Bridge project and aesthetic improvements ties into the Main and Broad Street project.
"It is a $7.5 million project coming into the heart of the city," he said.
According to Sullivan, the project will deal with the seven traffic lights in the area to make improvements and will also enhance and revitalize the historic aspects of downtown.
He said that the project would make the City Green a much larger part of downtown, which he added is the root of Westfield.
"The green is the center of cultural events that go on in the city," he said.
The project includes plans to make the Green more aesthetically pleasing with more greens and plantings.
"It will be something everyone can be proud of," he said.
Sullivan also mentioned the Columbia Greenway, which will be the city's bike path that will run through the city to the Southwick line.
"When you walk through it, it gives you a different and wonderful vantage point when looking at the city," he said. "You can really see the historic aspects and see how the city has developed."
In addition to improving aesthetics and providing recreational space, Sullivan said the project gives the city the chance to cleanup the railroad.
He said he believes the bike path will benefit the downtown businesses as well.
The city is also moving forward with the Gas Light District/Multi-Modal Facility that will be constructed in the "heart of downtown," Sullivan said.
He said the project has not been moving along as quickly as he would like, but he hopes the project will begin in 2006.
Although the project has been approved by the City Council, Planning Board and other necessary boards, Sullivan said that so much time has gone by that the project will need to be approved again.
The project includes the construction of a hotel and transit center.
Sullivan said new sidewalks, treescapes and total reconstruction and repairs will take place in the Gas Light District to create a destination point in the School Arnold and Franklin Street area of the city.
"[It is an] economic opportunity for merchants and landowners downtowm," he said.
As the city moves forward with the many proposed projects, Sullivan said he plans to continue work on improving the old neighborhoods in the city to make downtown "a better place to live, work and play."
Sullivan also mentioned the importance of providing a quality education and other services for residents, a new terminal building at the library, the possible Target Project, which will bring in tax revenue and about 800 jobs, and the possible new retail center near the Massachusetts Turnpike.
With all of the projects he outlined in his presentation, he said the new elected officials will have an extremely busy two years.
"It is an exciting time to be in the city and a more exciting time to be an elected official," he said.
Sullivan added that it is important to remember the leaders of the past who helped bring the city to its current point.
City Councilors who were sworn in include At-Large Councilors James Adams, David Bannish, Brent Bean II, John Liptak, Brian Sullivan, Barbara Swords and Joe Wynn; Charles Medieros, Ward 1; Daniel Knapik, Ward 2; Peter Miller, Jr., Ward 3; Mary O'Connell, Ward 4, Richard Onofrey, Ward 5 and Jason Russell, Ward 6.
Miller said that there are a lot of exciting things happening in the city, particularly downtown.
He added that there are a lot of opportunities for economic development.
"I look forward to moving Westfield forward," he said.
Russell said that his seven years as a meteorologist on television has helped him get used to being in the public eye so he will not have adapt to that.
He said that as a councilor, he will vote his conscience and keep his neighbors in Ward 6 on the top of his mind when voting.
As a councilor, he said he plans to have a distribution list that he will use to send updates to residents in his ward. He said anyone interested in receiving his updates or who would like to contact him may do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
School Committee members who were sworn into office include Robert Kapinos, Sharon Merlo-Gosselin and Heather Sullivan.
Municipal Light Board members who took the oath of office include Kevin Kelleher, Ward 1; John Palczynski, Ward 2; William Buzzee, Ward 3; Francis Liptak, Ward 4; Thomas Flaherty, Sr., Ward 5; and Robert Sacco, Ward 6.
Alberta Humason was sworn in as a trustee for the Westfield Athenaeum.