TOWN COUNCIL MEETING OPENING REMARKS: JUNE 14, 2022
(The following remarks were delivered by Mayor Brindle at the June 14, 2022 Town Council meeting.)
Good evening, everyone, and thanks to all who are joining us both here in the Council Chambers and online tonight. As a reminder, public comment will be accepted in person only, and we are live streaming for viewing only via Facebook. As always, the replay will also be available afterwards on Facebook, YouTube, and TV 36.
POLICE UPDATESHopefully you saw the recent announcement from the Police Department that they are conducting High Visibility Enforcement at various locations and prescribed times throughout Town this week – mostly focused on areas around the schools during drop off and dismissal to improve pedestrian safety for our students.
High Visibility Enforcement combines enforcement, visibility elements, and a publicity strategy to educate the public and promote voluntary compliance with the law. Many thanks to the Police Department for implementing these enhanced measures as a reminder to all residents to obey traffic laws and protect our pedestrians.
I also wanted to make you aware of a recent initiative launched by the Police and the DWC in May called the Downtown Westfield Quality of Life Unit, which was designed to address some of the issues we – and all communities with downtown centers – encounter as the warmer weather arrives and foot traffic increases.
While this increase in foot traffic brings many more patrons to our downtown, it can also bring unwelcome issues such as trespassing, groups blocking public points of access, exceeding parking limits, biking on sidewalks, and even vandalism, much of which has been attributed to unsupervised groups of teens. This specialized new unit has significantly enhanced WPD manpower assigned to the central business district on weekend nights. It consists of plain-clothes officers tasked with enforcement of infractions in the downtown area that include parking violations, bicycle riding on the sidewalks (which is not permitted in the downtown), youths climbing onto area rooftops, graffiti, and any unruly and/or destructive behavior. These officers supplement a uniformed officer who already patrols the downtown area, and will use all appropriate law enforcement tools to address any violations they may witness.
Following an incident that occurred downtown on Saturday evening that resulted in the assault of a 15 year-old male, the Police Department expeditiously identified a juvenile suspect, who is not a Westfield resident, and charged him accordingly on Tuesday afternoon. The investigation of this case remains ongoing and additional charges against other persons may be forthcoming.
Chief Battiloro advises that the recent widespread disorderly conduct of juveniles occurring in Downtown Westfield will not be tolerated. The Downtown Westfield Quality of Life Unit will be continuously deployed on select nights throughout the summer months. Incidents like the one that occurred on Saturday will be thoroughly investigated, and identified suspects will be criminally charged.
We are committed to ensuring that our downtown remains a safe and inviting destination for shoppers and diners, and one that is reflective of our business owners’ continued investment and commitment. As always, if you witness any wrongdoing, please call the Police Department immediately.
UPCOMING EVENTSWith the summer upon us, I’d like to remind everyone about some great seasonal events.
- The Westfield Farmers Market is back for another great season! The market has added a number of new vendors and will be open every Saturday from 8:30 AM - 1:00 PM at the North Avenue train station lot.
- Registration is open for the DWC’s 20th Annual Pizza Run, which will take place on Monday, July 18! You can sign up for this favorite downtown summer tradition on the DWC’s website.
- The Westfield Community Concert Band returns this summer for its 110th season! Join them for free performances in Mindowaskin Park on June 23, June 30, July 7, and July 14 at 7:30 PM.
- Save the dates for the 25th Annual Sweet Sounds Downtown Music Festival – every Tuesday night in July and August, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM. This favorite summer activity draws residents and visitors alike to Downtown Westfield for dining, shopping and, of course, the fabulous musical entertainment. Thanks to the DWC for scheduling another great line-up of performers!
Tonight, we will be voting on a number of items covering a range of issues, a few of which I’ll ask Councilwoman Habgood to highlight on behalf of the Finance Policy Committee.
Finance Policy Committee
Remarks by Councilwoman Habgood:
On the Finance Policy front, we’ll vote on resolutions authorizing the following actions:
- Approving the insertion of two special items of revenue in the municipal budget for the receipt of grants. The first is our annual Clean Communities grant to offset the costs of operating the Conservation Center. This year, we are receiving $59,130 for this purpose.The second is the Public Health Capacity grant in the amount of $274,735 to offset continuing COVID-related expenses.
- Authorization to submit a grant application for $5,000 by the Westfield Public Arts Commission to Union County for a public mural at the Rialto.
- Establishing the payment schedule for Board of Education tax payments, which is done annually for their fiscal year.
- Establishing an estimated tax rate of 2.159% (versus the 2021 certified rate of 2.163%). This is done annually to authorize the issuance of estimated tax bills at the end of June until the County certifies the final tax rate later in the summer, which will be followed by final tax bills issued in September.
- Authorization of an award of contract for additional electrical work needed for the upgrades to Council Chambers, which is expected to be completed in the early fall.
- Confirming compliance with Local Finance Board rules regarding recommendations of our annual audit. I’m pleased to report that 2021 was another very successful audit report with no formal recommendations made in the report. Many thanks to CFO Scott Olsen, the Finance office staff, and all of the Town department heads and staff for managing their respective departments budgets’ effectively and efficiently and in compliance with the applicable municipal finance laws.
Before we begin with the formal agenda, I’m pleased to issue two proclamations tonight – one recognizing the Friends of the Westfield Memorial Library for celebrating 50 years as an organization, and the second is to recognize the 150th anniversary of Holy Trinity Church.