The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.
Good evening everyone! It’s been another busy two weeks with lots of great stuff happening. These past two weeks were particularly fun because I spent lots of time with lots of kids:
-I met with Franklin third graders in Mindowaskin Park as part of their day-long walking field trip to important historical destinations in town.
-I gave a tour of Town Hall to the third grade Franklin Girl Scout troop, who took turns sitting in the mayor’s chair in council chambers and banging the gavel, which seems to be a very popular thing to do.
-I reminisced with my kids’ former kindergarten teacher Ms. Bilman from Westfield Day Care Center who brought over 30 preschoolers and kindergarteners for a short tour. They were all convinced that I actually live in Town Hall.
-I had the privilege of participating in a women’s career panel put on by the fourth grade girl scout troop at Jefferson where they asked me and four other women about our careers and why we chose the paths that we did.
-I also had the privilege of attending a Rotary luncheon where they awarded 18 high school students with almost $100,000 in scholarships. Once again, I am blown away by the high school talent in our community. Congrats to all of the recipients who will no doubt go on to achieve big things and will hopefully all return to Westfield as adults so we can tap into their talents once again!
I would also like to thank the Optimist Club for inviting me to their dinner last week. I walked away committed to trying to live up to their creed, notably “to wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile,” and “to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have NO TIME to criticize others.”
I attended a mayors roundtable discussion with Dave Daly, the new president of PSE&G, along with eight other mayors from various municipalities. We discussed storm responsiveness and opportunities for improvement, more timely communication, the desire to move to smart meters, and the need for additional and enhanced street lighting including the need to convert to LEDs.
This past week was focused on promoting historic preservation as we consider what measures can be taken to ensure that we preserve the historic character of our town. The town of Westfield, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Westfield Historical Society are collaborating in seeking solutions to save the historic Clark-Pierson home that was built in 1755. The owner is about to put the home on the market and is willing to donate it to anyone that will relocate the home. It will likely be demolished if a suitable buyer interested in saving the home doesn’t emerge. Please visit the HPC Facebook page to post comments or suggestions, or reach out directly to HPC Chairman Kelly Kessler.
It’s important to recognize those residents who have invested in preserving or restoring their homes, so the Historic Preservation Commission reprised the long dormant Harry Devlin Awards and acknowledged the efforts of 13 residents and businesses who have done exemplary jobs in restoring their properties. The Chairman’s Choice award was given to Helaine Donnelly and her late husband Pat Velderman for the extraordinary restoration of their Kimball Avenue home.
Another area of focus is to improve the business climate downtown. In the short term, we are working with the DWC to create events to generate more foot traffic in our downtown while we work towards longer term strategic solutions that will be addressed in the Master Plan. A great example of this approach was the yoga event that took place on Quimby Street last weekend, which was a resounding success with almost 150 participants enjoying downward dog on a drizzly day.
Additionally, the Westfield Farmers Market continues to see significant increase in foot traffic with its move to the north side train station lot. The vendors are thrilled with the new location and many downtown businesses have reported significant increases in their Saturday sales. This is a very positive development considering we were in danger of losing the farmers market altogether due to diminishing foot traffic. Like anything new, the new location remains a work in progress and the GWACC is committed to addressing issues as they arise, such as the need to assist seniors and others who may need help in getting their purchases to their cars parked in the south lot.
Additionally, I hosted my third meeting with property owners to discuss vacancies, development and parking. That meeting was followed by a merchant meeting a couple days later where we discussed opportunities for cross promotion and upcoming events. And this past Saturday, I attended a Downtown Westfield Corporation Board retreat where we spent the day discussing DWC priorities, specific objectives for each committee and a new approach to Main Street centered around establishing downtown as a live-work-play destination.
Today, Jim [Gildea] and I met with the Garwood Mayor and Police Chief in Gumbert Park to walk them through the plans for the temporary ice rink that will be installed on Nov. 1. Mayor Lombardo and I had already spoken several times about the rink, so today’s meeting was simply to walk them through the set up, address any concerns and explain the permanent improvements that are being made to the park. They didn’t raise any concerns that haven’t already been addressed, and we agreed to continue to cooperate and collaborate to ensure a successful outcome for all.
We have a very full agenda tonight. We will be adopting an ordinance establishing certain requirements for short-term rentals in town meant to address the lack of any type of rental regulation that exists today. Additionally, we are voting on resolutions to remove the existing Mindowaskin playground to make way for a new one, to award the contracts for road paving so that work can begin next month, and to authorize the purchase of two new street sweepers as approved in the budget.
We are also passing a resolution to amend our current cash management plan which will provide our town administrator and CFO the latitude to expand investment options for our town’s cash reserves in order to improve returns while mitigating risk.
And lastly, we are passing a resolution to purchase a new work management system tool called SeeClickFix which will ultimately enable residents to report designated DPW issues such as potholes, etc. through an app on their phone.