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Bissonnette says city is in good shape

Date: 2/23/2011

Feb. 23, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE — Despite the economy and the effects of a hard winter, Mayor Michael Bissonnette told the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce during his annual State of the City address, the status of Chicopee is "pretty doggone good."

Bissonnette added a word of caution to that assessment. He, like other mayors, is concerned about potential cuts to Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and how they would affect municipalities.

He noted that proposed federal budget cuts have not addressed either the defense budget or entitlement programs.

Bissonnette is a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is part of the community development committee. He said the conference is "very active on the federal level opposing the Obama cuts."

He believes, "In these economic times, it is foolhardy to cut back when you need an economic pick-up."

New members of Congress supporting huge cuts to help close the federal deficit "should be sent back to school for a lesson in economics," the mayor asserted.

Bissonnette will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

"There is no question the math is wrong. Even worse, the spirit [behind the cuts] is wrong," he continued. He told the chamber members that Chicopee "has been on the short end of the stick" when it comes to state aid. The city has seen a decrease over the past five years from $15 million to $8 million.

"This creates a huge problem," he said.

The reaction from his administration is to encourage early retirement and not fill vacancies. He has been able to help build a $10 million stabilization fund for the city, while not laying anyone off.

He plans to work toward using $1 million of that stabilization fund to avoid raising property taxes and will work to extend current water rates into the next fiscal year. He is also working on maintaining the base rate for electricity.

As far as the status of private investment, Bissonnette said, "There is still a lot of money on the sidelines. No one wants to take a risk yet."

He added his office is receiving more inquires about available land for business development.


Chicopee Chamber of Commerce President Gail Sherman announced at the chamber breakfast meeting that former Mayor Richard Kos had been elected as the chair of the chamber's board of directors.

She also announced the recipients of this year's Shining Star designation. The business of the year is Chicopee Electric Light; the citizen of the year is Jeff Sattler, president of NUVO Bank; and the volunteer of the year is Marie Laflamme.

The Shining Stars event is April 8.

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