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Bissonnette seeks to consolidate more departments

Date: 2/23/2010

Feb. 24, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE -- Mayor Michael Bissonnette told a packed Chicopee Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday he would continue his efforts to consolidate city government in order to improve efficiencies and lower costs.

The message was part of Bissonnette's annual state of the city address.

Bissonnette noted, for example, there are five city entities responsible for cutting municipal grass and the same financial transactions enter by two different offices.

"A system that worked in 1890 does not work today," he said.

He added, "In government there are little fiefdoms, little duchies, hidden away." He seeks to eliminate these.

Bissonnette used the example of having the cart paths repaved at the municipal golf course of looking for different kinds of solutions. He said the Golf Commission was considering a $300,000 budget to repave the paths and re-build the sand traps. He suggested using the Department of Public Works(DPW) for the paving job, which ultimately cost only $75,000.

Bissonnette announced his intentions to combine all of the city's "back office functions" into one finance and administrative center in City Hall.

He also affirmed his continued support of moving all of the DPW offices and equipment under one roof.

Bissonnette would like to develop more use for the City Council chambers and for the City Hall auditorium. The auditorium is never used he said, and the chambers are only used about 10 percent of the time City Hall is open.

Consolidating offices will save on fuel costs, he added.

He acknowledged the difficulty in achieving these goals by saying, "Change is hard -- harder in the public sector than it is in the private."

"There is no better time than now to make these changes," he said.

Bissonnette said although Chicopee is financially sound the uncertain economic times means "we're not out of the woods yet."

The city has been able to capitalize on federal stimulus funding for infrastructure projects as well as state monies for sewer and water improvements and upcoming projects such as the repaving of Memorial Drive, which will soon be going out to bid. The repaving of Burnett Road is also on the list of future projects, he added.

He also said the John R. Lyman Company, which has been located downtown, will be building a new facility in the city's industrial park near Westover Air Reserve Base.

The city will also welcome another new business, Bimbo Bakeries USA. The company, which produces the Arnold, Entenmann's, Freihofer's and Thomas' lines of baked goods, should bring 100 jobs to the city, Bissonnette said.