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City Council to consider funding for capital projects

March 29, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs


CHICOPEE —Trash totters, removing asbestos from the former library building, finishing renovations at the Department of Public Works (DPW) building are among the projects to be considered by the City Council at a Finance Committee meeting on April 4.

The Council sent most of mayoral spending orders to the subcommittee for consideration at its March 19 meeting.

In discussing approving an additional $4 million for the construction of the new senior center City Council James Tillotson foreshadowed much of the tone of the evening. He said, in a self-described "sermon," the city must remain frugal in its spending.

"I don't know how much further we can go without bankrupting the city," Tillotson said of the mayor's spending requests. "Of course they're worthy, but the bottom line is can we afford them?"

Councilor Dino Brunetti said, "I think we have to count pennies" and added he didn't mean to alarm any residents about the city's finances.

While $4 million loan was approved, the $980,000 needed to complete the renovation and consolidation project at the DPW offices was sent to the Finance Committee. Students from Chicopee Comprehensive High School have completed much of the work, but there are elements of the projects that must be undertaken by licensed contractors.

Council Frank Laflamme said, "I want to know exactly that the $980,000 will be spent on."

The council had a lengthy discussion about the removal of asbestos from the former library covered in a $230,000 appropriation from the mayor. Bissonnette and the School Committee have begun discussions about moving the School department offices from its current location on Broadway and the former library is one possible location.

Regardless if its disposition, Bissonnette has explained in the past that before either re-use by the city, demolition or sale, the asbestos must be removed.

City Councilor Fred Krampits said, "While I think it's a good project, I'm not going to support it at this time."

Tillotson noting past expenditures for the library building in preparation of its re-use noted that passing this request would just be the start of a series of appropriations and added the Council doesn't know what future costs of structural engineer and architect.

Tillotson also asserted the School Committee was not in agreement on moving to the library building. "If anything it was lukewarm. They're not ready to move," he said.

Brunetti said downtown has had "its share of the apple." He said road repair and a new public safety headquarters should be the priorities instead of planning the reuse of the library.

City Councilor John Vieau spoke of "putting the brakes on" when it comes to spending.

Only Councilor Roy expressed any support for the appropriation. He said the city needs to do it to "start the ball rolling" on the re-use of the building.

The discussion will continue at the subcommittee meeting.

The $850,000 request to pay for trash totters was also sent to the Finance Subcommittee. Bissonnette has advocated for the purchase of the standardized wheeled garbage cans, similar to those used in Springfield, as a means of streamlining the collection of trash.

Laflamme questioned the size of the proposed bins and whether or not families would need a second or third one.

He asked, "Can we still put things on the side?"

Tillotson declared, "The people can going to pay more for these barrels and get less service, in my opinion."

Vieau expressed opposition to the purchase "because we have a lot of open ended projects right now."

The $1.8 million order to pay for a new irrigation system at the municipal golf course was also sent to the Finance Committee.

Councilor Donald Demers said, "I think the timing is bad and we'll take it up in committee. Tillotson said he would like to speak with members of the Golf Course Commission about the proposal.

A discussion about bonding for a new pumper truck for the Fire Department will also be carried to the committee meeting. The Council briefly discussed the whether or not the city should borrow $450,000 for the truck or pay for it out of the stabilization fund.

Councilor Robert Zygarowski led the Council in approving a use of $400,000 from a special account for drainage to solve a problem at a pumping station in the Nutmeg Circle area of the city.

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