The Pile Measures Two Feet Six Inches

The legislative season is starting to wind down. We’re waiting for final approval of the budget. A few bills are being debated on the floor. But everyone is looking forward to a summer, or Labor Day break. A chance to relax a little before we get back to serious work in September.

It’s a time when we can clear the desks, eliminate the piles of clutter, sort through magazines and information sent but unread.

Hot summer days mean good reading. And from the two foot pile behind my desk, I’ve already learned a lot.

I learned to get rid of the pile before it reaches that height and slides over into a massive mess of loose papers, clippings, pamphlets and pages.

Some of it actually from Westfield.

I learned about "attitude" from Col. Mike Boulanger, Commander of the 104th Air National Guard in Westfield. I liked what he wrote in the Guard’s "Airscoop." To wit:

"Attitude. In many ways it’s more important than any previous preparation, previous successes or failures.

"Attitude is that single string that keeps you going strong or cripples your progress. It will fuel your fire or assault your hope. When your attitude is right, there is no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme or no challenge too great."

If you worried about lead content in your water (it probably comes from the materials used in your home’s plumbing) flush the tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using your tap water. Some Westfield water has elevated lead levels, according to our Water Department, but the department is working with the state to comply with EPA standards regarding lead and copper. The city’s lead levels probably stem from corrosion at well sites.

How many phone calls does the Westfield Gas and Electric receive? About 5,000, according to their annual report. The utility, by the way, doesn’t come under any of the new deregulation bills because they are a municipal facility and, thus, are exempt.

How does the G&E spend its money? The cost of energy is 75 percent of their costs; salaries and benefits, 10 percent; overhead (office supplies, heat, light, phones, accounting, advertising, etc), 15 percent. Last year, the G&E made 1,995 service calls and made payment arrangement for 1,132 customers.

Where does Westfield get its money? $32.1-million from tax levies, $32.6-million in state aid, $15.5-million in local receipts. Local receipts include things like fines, interest on investments, excise taxes, and water, sewer and trash charges.

The PVTA is at least thinking about improving services in Westfield. Near the bottom of my pile I found a report on a possible park and ride facility in Westfield. Because there would be areas where you could leave your car and hop a bus, thus eliminating some of the heavy traffic on the Route 20 corridor between Westfield and Springfield, it makes sense. Possible locations: Wal-Mart, the old Caldor’s, Western Mass Hospital, Westgate, Westfield Shops, or Big Y.

If you didn’t know, we’re on Red Route 10, with service from Westfield State to the Springfield bus terminal, a 30-minute trip by PVTA. But never on Sunday. Just six days a week.

The PVTA is also seeking legislative funding for an additional route, which would cover the Union Street area, travel to C&S, and the Mill at Crane Pond.

What does the City Engineer worry about? According to his report to the Mayor and City Council, he worries about drainage. And the cleaning of drainage areas. The inspection and cleaning of sewers and sanitary sewer easements.

And dikes. Cleaning and mowing and discouraging burrowing animals, but also the city’s vulnerability to flooding.

And, of course, roads, including unpaved, unaccepted streets and the accompanying legal responsibility of them. (Since the abutters own the road, they have to maintain and improve it.)

City Engineer Mark Cressotti has a master plan outlined for improvements to city streets and roads. Want to know when improvements will be made to Mill Street or East Mountain Road, Broad Street or Lockhouse Road? Ask to see the master plan.

And, the engineering department tells me, there will soon be a new city street map, in color, with route markings, points of interests and a grid index to look up the names of streets.

Maybe I need a grid to tell me where things are in that pile. At least the legislature now works in two-year sessions, with 2001 and 2002 combined into one. So I should have time to finish the pile. Next week!

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