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Council majority votes to keep status quo

Date: 1/14/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM The New Year will not be an easy one for the City Council, for Agawam or for the Commonwealth but the majority voted to stay the course with their current leadership at their last meeting on Jan. 5.

City Council President Gina Letellier and Vice President Cecilia Calabrese were reappointed by a vote of six to five. Councilors George Bitzas, Calabrese, Letellier, Jill Messick, Joe Mineo and Jill Simpson voted in favor of the reappointment. The remaining five councilors voted for Donald Rheault for president and Robert Rossi for vice president.

"I'm happy that the councilors have [once again] placed their trust in me," Letellier said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "I will continue to [work to] earn their trust."

Calabrese said while she is honored by her reappointment, she and Letellier are focusing their attention on the numerous tasks at hand, including the looming budget process for fiscal year 2010 (FY10).

"It's gonna be tough and we're really gonna have to roll up our sleeves," she said, adding that if the city does not receive mid-year cuts they should be prepared for a significant decrease in local aid in FY10. "I want to make sure that we're not looking at cuts in services.[people] expect to have their trash picked up, have streets plowed and maintained and [proper] education, fire and police [services]."

Letellier explained that she will work as president to ensure that the council is more involved in the budget process. She said that has "partially happened" with the formation of the council's Capital Improvement Budget Subcommittee but that greater involvement in the overall process is needed.

Letellier said she wants to see an increase in the local tax base to help supplement the waning state aid.

Letellier and Calabrese noted that other projects on the horizon include a possible community center and a new parking ordinance.

"The parking ordinance has to be sent back to the drawing board," Calabrese said. "If we want to try again for [this] legislation I would like to see us focus more on enforcing our zoning laws as they exist and give them a little more teeth."

Letellier said she will continue to focus on modernizing the council. She noted that progress has already been made on that front with the reconfiguration of the council meeting agendas which now include the number of readings and votes needed to pass legislation making them more user-friendly. Letellier added that constituents can read meeting minutes online as well as reach the council president via e-mail through the town's Web site,

The next City Council meeting will take place on Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m.