| Sarah Heinonen
WEST SPRINGFIELD – The West Springfield Town Council approved an updated hazard mitigation plan on March 23 that had been spearheaded by Town Planner Allyson Manuel and Fire Chief William Flaherty.
Manuel explained that it was funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and it is in place to “minimize the loss of life, damage to property and disruption to governmental services and business activities due to natural disasters.” It is also meant to inform residents ahead of and during a disaster.
After attending a training session, Manuel and Flaherty hired the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) to help draft a mitigation plan and convened a committee to review and update the old plan. Manuel said a public meeting was conducted and the new plan was released for public review.
The plan will now be sent to FEMA for review and approval, at which point West Springfield will be eligible for grants to help put the mitigation plan into action.
An ad hoc committee was established to explore options for preserving Bear Hole. The committee will consist of three town councilors, one community member and one member of the West Springfield Conservation Commission, to be appointed by Council President Brian Griffin.
Councilor Anthony DiStefano explained that the committee will look at all options for preservation and Councilor Michael Eger spoke in favor of the committee. He said it will have the option to explore “independent” preservation.
A conservation restriction that would have been jointly administered by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and Mass Audubon was recently voted down amid concerns that control of the land and water resources would leave town hands.
A transfer of $24,000 was approved from the community preservation fund to the Friends of West Springfield Parks and Recreation for the historic preservation of the Carnegie wing of the library. Al Howard, chair of Community Preservation, said that the wing was built with a grant that requires a non-profit organization to conduct inspections that ensure it is being historically maintained.
Mayor Will Reichelt updated the council on the COVID-19 response. The town government is currently working with a skeleton staff while many employees work from home, but he assured residents all government services are available by phone and the town government website, wsps.org.
Addressing the school closure, Reichelt said the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) testing has been delayed and advanced placement tests have been moved online. He reminded residents that the school district is providing meals at 10 sites around town for students whose families rely on school-provided meals. Reichelt said in the first week 3,051 meals were distributed.
He also said Meals on Wheels is still running in the town for seniors who are home-bound. A list of essential businesses can be found at mass.gov/covid-19.
Councilor George Kelly addressed the council and the town as a whole and said West Springfield has been through many “scrapes” over its history and it will get through COVID-19, as well.