TOWN COUNCIL MEETING OPENING REMARKS: MAY 9, 2023
(The following remarks were delivered by Mayor Brindle at the May 9, 2023 Town Council meeting.)
Good evening, and thanks to everyone who is joining us tonight both in person and online this evening. 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.
Before we get to tonight’s agenda, I’d first like to thank and commend the Westfield Fire Department for their efforts in responding to a fire at 412 West Broad Street. While we’re grateful that no one was injured and that the occupants weren’t home, their house was destroyed and their two dogs didn’t survive. A Go Fund Me account has been set up for the McKeon family, a familiar name to many of us as long-time Westfield residents and public servants.
Congratulations to Westfield resident Anastasia Harrison on the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the beautiful new space for her architecture and design firm AHD & Co, located upstairs at 114 Elm Street, which she shares with architect Michael Moritz and his firm Stonewater Architecture, LLC.
Also newly opened is Mochimoly at 138 East Broad Street, which serves mochi treats such as donuts and Korean hot dogs, and the Indigo Arts Studio Round 2, a painting studio for kids and adults on the corner of Elm and Quimby in the former Design Hub space. Be sure to stop in and check them out!
We also look forward to this Saturday’s ribbon cutting for women’s retail shop Cachet at 112 Central Avenue, across from Starbucks, and Monday’s opening of the House of Wine and Liquor at 560 North Avenue, in the former TD Bank location. Over the next two months we will also welcome the downtown openings for German Doner Kebab, Wonder, and Rumble Boxing!
Downtown outdoor summer dining is back, including the return of many parklets and Open Quimby! The popular pedestrian plaza, featuring expanded outdoor dining and retail space, entertainment, and wellness programming, returned this past weekend for another exciting season, following the success of the past three years. Quimby Street has resumed its seasonal one-way traffic pattern, and will be fully closed to cars on Tuesday nights in July and August during the Sweet Sounds Downtown Music Festival. The DWC will once again provide a range of Open Quimby programming in the coming months in addition to Sweet Sounds and Girls’ Night Out, which is this Thursday! It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful night so please come out and enjoy the festivities, and support our local businesses!
PRIDE MONTH FLAG RAISING
Join us for our annual Pride Month celebration! The Pride flag raising will be held at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 7, on the Town Hall lawn, followed by a walk to Quimby Street where there will be refreshments and music. The rain date will be the following day on Thursday, June 8.
NATIONAL BIKE MONTH
May is National Bike Month, and we have some great updates for our cyclists in town. Councilman Dardia, as the liaison to the Bicycle Advisory Board, has some information on two bike oasis projects, and Councilman Katz, as the liaison to the Recreation Commission, has all of the details on this year’s Tour de Westfield.
[Comments by Councilman Dardia]:
We are looking forward to the upcoming installation of two bike oases. One will be located in Municipal Lot 1 behind Bovella’s and is a joint effort between the DPW, Bicycle Advisory Board, and the Green Team, and is funded by a Sustainable Jersey Bike Oasis grant. The second location will be on Elmer Street behind the Rialto, as part of a separate grant received by the DWC. The intention of these bike oases is to provide amenities for cyclists, including new bike racks, benches, a water bottle filler, and bike tool repair station to further encourage biking in the downtown. We anticipate work to be completed on these projects in the coming weeks so that the new facilities are ready for the public’s enjoyment this summer.
And as the weather warms up, please keep bike safety in mind! Always remember to wear a fitted helmet, use hand signals, and ride with the flow of traffic. It’s also important to wear reflective clothing and add lights to the front and rear of your bike when riding at dawn, dusk, and at night.
[Comments by Councilman Katz]:
Our resident community biking event, Tour de Westfield, is back for its second year! Save the date for Sunday, June 11, from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM, for activities that include a two-mile family bike parade led by the Westfield Police Department, a WPD Bike Rodeo and the Tour de Tots for younger children on tricycles and scooters.
Participants can also vie for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to a Westfield business by decorating your bike in the Bling Your Bike Contest. Or, compete to win $150 towards an ice cream or pizza party at a local eatery if you are the largest group to register and ride! We will also give away (8) $20 Downtown Westfield Gift Certificates courtesy of the Downtown Westfield Corporation to some lucky participants.
This year we are featuring a new activity for our more adventurous bikers called the Tour de Tricks, where children nine and older can learn how to jump a curb or see a wheelie demonstration up close. Jay's Cycle will also be on hand to perform safety checks on your bike. Entertainment will be provided by The Spinners. Based on our first annual event turnout, we are expecting a great day! Advance registration is required, which will be available this week on the Town website.
Thanks to the Recreation Commission & Department for organizing this event, in collaboration with the Westfield Police Department, Bicycle Advisory Board, BRAKES Coalition, Green Team, and Downtown Westfield Corporation.
Tonight, we have a number of legislative items on the agenda, including ordinances on second reading to historically designate three homes in Stoneleigh Park and update our historic preservation ordinance as part of National Historic Preservation Month. We’ll also hear ordinances on second reading related to Master Plan implementation, all of which were unanimously approved by the Planning Board last week, as well as those addressing stormwater management.
Lastly, I’d like to provide some context for the introduction of tonight’s ordinance to approve a bond issuance of $11.8M for the Edison Fields Project.
Following the vote in November by both the Town and the Board of Education approving the shared service agreement for the Edison Fields Project, the Town has proceeded with its due diligence to identify, through a public RFP process, the most appropriate and cost effective firm for site survey and project design work. As you’ll hear, we had an incredible response to the RFP, as many well-known and qualified firms sought out this project. But first I’d like Councilman Katz, as liaison to the Recreation Commission, to provide more details for the public on the steps we undertook to get to this point.
[Remarks by Councilman Katz]:
Thank you, Mayor. As we had communicated back in November, the next steps in this process would be the issuance of an RFP for site survey and project design work. The timeline of the process that has brought us to this ordinance introduction tonight was as follows:
The RFP was issued on January 19, and we then hosted a non-mandatory site inspection visit at Edison for interested firms on January 26.
We were pleased to learn on March 8, the deadline for the RFP, that 11 firms had submitted responses.
On March 17, we formed a review and selection committee to ensure the full range of stakeholder input was involved in this process. These committee members included myself, Councilwoman Habgood as the Finance Policy Committee Chair, Board of Education Business Administrator Patty Ramos, Board of Education Facilities Director Sean McArthur, Recreation Director Megan Schaffer, Assistant Recreation Director Dan Conte, Recreation Commission member Russ Howell and Chairwoman Jennifer Gilman, Town Administrator Jim Gildea, Assistant Town Administrator Heather Re-Ferrati, and Dave McAlister, member of the Westfield Infrastructure Resiliency Committee (WIRC).
The committee conducted interviews of seven firms and, based on these interviews, at the end of April, unanimously chose T&M Associates as the best fit for this project to be recommended for a future award of contract, based on their clear expertise and relevant experience.
It’s also worth repeating that, as we’ve previously discussed, the Edison Fields Project is the first step of many in a larger process of addressing our fields and facilities town-wide. And while the Edison Fields Project is the most expeditious approach to gaining desperately needed additional capacity for our student athletes and Town sports leagues, we remain committed to pursuing additional solutions with natural grass fields simultaneously as we look at other sites going forward.
[Remarks by Town Administrator Jim Gildea]:
In terms of financing, the ordinance on first reading tonight is to bond $11.8M. Much like the bond ordinances we do for road paving and many capital projects, as well as for One Westfield Place, though on a smaller scale, we bond for more than the precise projected costs in order to allow for variations in material and unanticipated costs as details become finalized. In this case, we want to ensure that we have bonded for enough funding to ensure our drainage complies with the new state stormwater management standards that we expect to be released shortly, as well as the ability to choose the most environmentally friendly turf and infill materials as new and more sustainable products continue to be introduced in the marketplace. It’s also important that we have the full financial commitment in place to provide certainty to the Board of Education regarding this partnership.
As we’ve discussed previously, a significant portion of the debt service on this project will be offset by the PILOT proceeds from the Westfield Crossing project, expected to yield $20M over our 30-year developer agreement, beginning next year, thereby mitigating the cost burden on taxpayers.
This $11.8M includes all anticipated costs including turf, drainage, lighting, bathrooms, landscaping, and amenities, as well as the design, engineering, and project management services provided by the selected vendor.
Since we anticipate receiving some funding from grants and sponsorships, we do not expect to utilize the full bond amount, so any unused funds will be repealed and not bonded, which can then be redirected to future uses, such as supporting concurrent grass field initiatives.
[Remarks by Mayor Brindle]:
And to that point, we are also committing tonight to dedicate the $300K Westfield Crossing developer contribution to the Park Improvement Fund to a grass field plan that will include the simultaneous assessment and implementation of designated grass playing fields, and all that it would require, to ensure they remain safe and well-maintained for our sports teams.
I would like to thank Councilman David Contract for his insistence and persistence in advocating for grass playing fields, and ensuring this Council’s commitment to bringing them to fruition in conjunction with the Edison Fields Project. This is a win-win for everyone, and provides the best of both worlds for our residents and athletes.
Before we move on to tonight’s agenda, I’d like to congratulate all of the college graduates who have their commencement ceremonies this month. Having attended both my daughters’ graduations these past two weeks, I was reminded how grateful I am for the incredible education our students receive from the Westfield Public Schools, and would like to thank our community for supporting the recent school budget referendum to ensure our schools continue to deliver a top flight education for our students. So, congrats to the college graduates, and to their families, on this milestone!
With that, let’s get to work.