What Does Westfield Need?

A long time ago, when I was first on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, members spent a meeting talking about what Westfield needed.

At the top of the list, as I recall it 20-plus years later, was a new bridge over the Westfield River. Second on the list, a positive attitude. Well, we’re getting the bridge. And it looks like the attitude has improved.

A recent study by the Lower Pioneer Valley Resource Library Prevention Services (hey, I don’t know who they are either) listed three pages of assets and only one page of negatives, or needs.

The group organized a meeting of Westfield people representing organizations like Noble Hospital, the fire and police departments, Council on Aging, YMCA, Clergy Association. Folks like that who did just what the Chamber did decades ago.

On the list of negatives, the bridge and traffic congestion once again came up as needing an immediate replacement and solution. Not just a bridge, but also the ability to move safely from North to South.

The panel also mentioned downtown revitalization, with an eye toward the planned rail trail, hotel and intermodal center. They also suggested the need for a movie theater and a Home Depot.

Which might relate to another need—community planning for the long term.

Other items on the list included the need for a centralized senior center with nearby parking to serve our 6,800 elders; improved public transportation; better rubbish pickup; more fire and police officers and an improved fire station; return of community policing in the downtown area; and affordable housing, especially apartments.

Many of the needs listed focused on health care and the need for programs like substance abuse prevention and treatment, dental care for the uninsured, a Planned Parenthood program, availability of psychiatrists for children; and women’s health services for those with low incomes.

Another topic mentioned was education, with emphasis on services for children with Attention Deficit Disorders, after school programs for children with mental illnesses, alternative education options, MCAS remediation, and an additional high school.

The panel also asked for a program on dating violence prevention for teens and young adults, support for victims of domestic violence, and programs appropriate for batterers with court orders to modify their behavior.

Still others wanted additional homeless shelter capacity and safe homes for long term stays and affordable childcare.

Our newest citizens—immigrants from the Ukraine—deserve more ESL classes, job training, and integration into the community, as well as translation services, according to the discussion group.

Perhaps, as the Lower Pioneer Valley Resource Library Prevention Services folks noted, you’ve only just now heard about these issues. Or, maybe it’s the 20th time in 20 years.

They, and I, just offer them for thought as we enjoy the quality of life we have in Westfield and plan for the future of our city.

Next week, we’ll look at the positive side.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014