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Public Service Committee Meeting May 26, 2021

May 26 2021

6:30 pm Remote by Zoom

,

City Council

Holyoke Massachusetts

 

Notice of Committee Meeting

There will be a regular meeting of the committee on

 

Public service

 

Meeting to take place remotely on Zoom Meetings on Wednesday 5-26-21 at 6:30 PM

Per order of the Chair: Jim Leahy

*** Meeting will take place remotely and can be accessed via www.zoom.us

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84648281079?pwd=Y0RSM2JjQUlJSWFveVQ4TFF5TW9VZz09

Meeting ID: 846 4828 1079 Meeting Passcode: 304813 or by call in at 1 (646) 558-8656 with same Meeting ID and Passcode. ***

 

 

Item 1: 4-20-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee, letter reappointing Ms. Frances Welson, 1421 Northampton St. to serve as a member of the Historical Commission for the City of Holyoke: Ms. Welson will serve a three year term; said term will expire on April 16, 2021.

Item 2: 4-20-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee, reappointment of Lori Belanger of 16 Roland St. for the position of Purchasing Director for the City of Holyoke: Ms. Belanger will serve a four-year term; said term will expire on November 30, 2025.

Item 3: 4-6-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee letter appointing Mr. Ray Drewnowski, 27 Jarvis Ave. to serve as the Democratic Member for the Board of Registrar of Voters for the City of Holyoke: Mr. Drewnowski will replace Ms. Hayley Dunn and will serve a three year term; said term will expire on March 31, 2024.

Item 4: 4-6-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee letter reappointing L. Dorothea MacNeil, 226 Beech St. to serve as the Republican Member for the Board of Registrar of Voters for the City of Holyoke: Ms. MacNeil will serve a three year term; said term will expire on March 31, 2024.

Item 5: 2-2-21 MCGEE -- Ordered that the Personnel Department post the position or Treasuer and the Public Service Committee begin interviews so the City Council can appoint a Treasurer to fill the unexpired term of Sandra Smith.

Item 6 3-16-21 MCGEE -- Order that the park and recreation department and DPW review the park space at Jones Point in order to develop a plan to better utilize the space.

Item 7a: 4-6-21 MCGEE -- Ordered, that Order that the legal department come before the city council to get and update on the Yale Street project.

Item 7b: 4-6-21 From Citizens of Holyoke, email regarding 11 Yale St.

Item 7c: 4-6-21 From Kip Foley, letter regarding 11 Yale St.

Administrative Assistant: Jeffery Anderson-Burgos

The listing of matters are those reasonably anticipated by the chair which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed and other items may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. Also one or two items may require the committee to enter into executive session at this meeting. Agenda subject to change up to two business days (48 hours) prior to posted meeting time.

Public Service Committee

May 26, 2021

 

Members present: Chairman James Leahy, Vice Chairwoman Libby Hernandez, Rebecca Lisi

Other councilors present: Todd McGee, Terence Murphy, Joseph McGiverin, Howard Greaney, Jr

 

Chairman Leahy called the meeting to order at 6:32 PM.

 

Councilor Lisi made a motion to remove item 1 from the table. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 1: 4-20-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee, letter reappointing Ms. Frances Welson, 1421 Northampton St. to serve as a member of the Historical Commission for the City of Holyoke: Ms. Welson will serve a three year term; said term will expire on April 16, 2021.

--->      Confirmed 3-0.

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Leahy recognized Frances Welson. He noted that the item was a reappointment.

F. Welson stated that this would be her third term on the Historical Commission. She stated that she sought to join the commission out of a belief that historic preservation in conjunction with economic development would be important to the city. She then asked for a clarification of what the committee was seeking.

Chairman Leahy stated that they usually seek background information related to the position as well as why someone would be seeking the position.  He noted that reappointments are usually approved when they are received, adding that there had been interest in referring the appointment to committee.

Councilor McGee stated that the reappointment had been referred to committee because it had been submitted by an acting mayor.

F. Welson described her background as eclectic child of the 60’s. She stated that her bachelor’s degree was in economics and her master’s degree as well as a certificate of advanced study was in education. She then stated that she was involved in urban development economic for many years. She stated that she returned to Holyoke in the 70’s doing community resource and organizing work, and educational work. She also stated that she and her late husband started a non-profit to help veterans with PTSD through aikido. She noted that she volunteers as a special advocate to work with kids in the foster system due to abuse and neglect.

Councilor Lisi noted that Ms. Welson had been on the commission for many years, adding that the commission had been very active. She expressed her confidence in Ms. Welson continuing to serve on the commission.

F. Welson noted that the commission has worked to coordinate with departments that would be involved in dealing with historic buildings. She added an intent to bring an end to demolition by neglect, adding that she would prefer to work with owners to find ways to repurpose historic buildings.

Councilor Murphy expressed one of his goals would be to have the city work with the historical commission right away when the city takes ownership of buildings with historic value to discuss alternatives and funding options.

F. Welson stated that would be her preferred direction going forward as well. She then recognized that not all buildings could be saved but some middle ground could be sought such as saving facades in order to avoid losing the historic character.

Chairman Leahy made a motion to confirm the appointment. Councilor Lisi seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(11:25)

Councilor Lisi made a motion to remove item 2 from the table. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 2: 4-20-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee, reappointment of Lori Belanger of 16 Roland St. for the position of Purchasing Director for the City of Holyoke: Ms. Belanger will serve a four-year term; said term will expire on November 30, 2025.

--->      Confirmed 3-0.

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Leahy noted that Ms. Belanger was not able to attend as she was using the time to study for an exam related to the duties of her job.

Councilor McGee stated that the reappointment had been sent to committee as a formality due to his acting mayor status. He then offered his recommendation for Ms. Belanger, noting she had done well in the position.

Councilor Lisi made a motion to confirm the appointment. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(13:50)

Councilor Lisi made a motion to remove item 3 from the table. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 3: 4-6-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee letter appointing Mr. Ray Drewnowski, 27 Jarvis Ave. to serve as the Democratic Member for the Board of Registrar of Voters for the City of Holyoke: Mr. Drewnowski will replace Ms. Hayley Dunn and will serve a three year term; said term will expire on March 31, 2024.

--->      Complied with 3-0.

Chairman Leahy recognized Ray Drewnowski. He then reiterated him to describe his background and why he sought the position.

R. Drewnowski stated he had been a longtime active member of the Democratic Party. He stated that he began volunteer in 2008, had been elected as a Presential Elector in 2012, and became a member and treasurer of the Holyoke Democratic City Committee (HDCC) in 2014. He added that he was elected as Chair of HDCC in 2015, as well as serving on the Democratic State Committee as a member of several subcommittees. He noted his many efforts at voter outreach in the city as well as involvement in several local and state campaigns.

Chairman Leahy noted Mr. Drewnowski’s strong resume and expressed support for the nomination.

Councilor McGiverin asked if Hayley Dunn had chosen not to seek the position again.

R. Drewnowski confirmed that she had not.

Councilor McGiverin asked why she had not sought the position again.

R. Drewnowski stated that her intent was to fulfill for the previous term.

Councilor Lisi expressed her belief that the position would be a good fit for him, noting his involvement and interest in electoral politics.

Lis made a motion that the order had been complied with. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(18:30)

Councilor Lisi made a motion to remove item 4 from the table. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 4: 4-6-21 From Acting Mayor Todd McGee letter reappointing L. Dorothea MacNeil, 226 Beech St. to serve as the Republican Member for the Board of Registrar of Voters for the City of Holyoke: Ms. MacNeil will serve a three year term; said term will expire on March 31, 2024.

--->      Complied with 3-0

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Leahy recognized L. Dorothea MacNeil. He then asked for her background and why she sought the role.

L. MacNeil stated that she had worked in Holyoke since the 1980’s, noting that she had worked in the Law Department. She stated that her Law degree was earned at Boston College Law School. She stated she had been on the Board of Registrars for many years, noting that she understood the importance of having people who can supervise elections and testify and ascertain that elections had been done properly. She emphasized the value of assuring that people have confidence in elections.

Councilor Lisi thanked Ms. MacNeil for highlighting the duties of the role as well as noting that elections work.

Councilor Lisi made a motion that the order had been complied with. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(23:00)

Councilor Lisi made a motion to remove item 5 from the table. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 5: 2-2-21 MCGEE -- Ordered that the Personnel Department post the position or Treasuer and the Public Service Committee begin interviews so the City Council can appoint a Treasurer to fill the unexpired term of Sandra Smith.

--->      Complied with 3-0

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Leahy recognized Katherine Jackowski. He noted she was the nominee for the position. He asked her to provide her background and explain why she sought the position.

K. Jackowski stated that she worked for Holyoke since 2011, starting in the Treasurer’s office managing payroll before briefly serving as Acting Auditor, moving into the Assistant Treasurer position, and finally was appointed as Tax Collector for the past four years. She then stated she had been in the role of Acting Treasurer for the past few months. She stated that she enjoyed public service and enjoyed working for the city. She noted that she had worked in most of the financial offices of the city and believed she was well qualified for the position. She also expressed her intent to run for the position in the next election.

Chairman Leahy commended her love for public service.

Councilor Lisi commended her stepping into many financial roles when there was a need. She then asked for an opinion on an order to create a finance director position.

K. Jackowski expressed a belief that the position was necessary, adding that she was unsure if the city was financially stable enough to create it at that time. She stated the more pressing matter would be to combine the Tax Collector and Treasurer positions, noting that the city was one of the few municipalities in the state without that combination.

Councilor Lisi noted that there had been a ballot referendum order filed to place a question on the ballot combining the positions.

Councilor McGiverin expressed support for her appointment, noting she had the necessary background and experience for the position. He also noted she was the point person for handling the munis system. He asked how well she could decipher if a bond would be appropriate for various situations.

K. Jackowski stated that she had been involved with the boding process while serving as Assistant Treasurer. She stated that she had worked closely with the outside auditor as well as the City Auditor on bonding in her current role as Acting Treasurer.

Councilor McGee expressed his support for her taking on the role permanently. He observed that she would often help manage the office at times when the Treasurer was out. He noted the City Council’s next step would be finding a new Tax Collector.

Councilor Murphy commended her qualifications and expressed his intent to work closely with her.

Councilor Lisi made a motion to confirm the appointment. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(31:55)

Councilor Lisi made a motion to remove item 6 from the table. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 6 3-16-21 MCGEE -- Order that the park and recreation department and DPW review the park space at Jones Point in order to develop a plan to better utilize the space.

--->      Complied with 3-0

Chairman Leahy recognized Terry Shepard, Parks and Rec Director, as well as Michael McManus, DPW Administrator.

Councilor McGee stated that the basketball court and the baseball field at the park should be reconfigured to better utilize the space. He also suggested it should be configured to overlook the waterway.

T. Shepard stated that Jones Point was on the commissioners list of next up projects, meaning they would apply for funding within the next year. She noted there was a plan to apply for CPA funding. She also noted that anew playground had been long overdue. She then suggested asking neighbors and residents for feedback on updates of the park.

M. McManus agreed that the next step should be to talk to the neighbors.

T. Shepard noted several other parks were undergoing updates at that time, adding that Jones Point would be a priority after that work was done.

Councilor Hernandez expressed support for discussing the potential plans with the surrounding neighbors.

Councilor Lisi made a motion that the order had been complied with. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(37:10)

Councilor Lisi made a motion to suspend the necessary rules to remove items 7A, 7B, and 7C from the table as a package. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 7A: 4-6-21 MCGEE -- Ordered, that Order that the legal department come before the city council to get and update on the Yale Street project.

--->      Laid on the table 2-0

Item 7B: 4-6-21 From Citizens of Holyoke, email regarding 11 Yale St.

--->      Laid on the table 2-0.

Item 7c: 4-6-21 From Kip Foley, letter regarding 11 Yale St.

--->      Laid on the table 2-0.

DISCUSSION:

Councilor McGee observed that many councilors had been receiving emails and calls regarding the operations at 11 Yale St, as well as on the issuing of the building or occupancy permit. He emphasized the importance of understanding where things stood regarding legal matters. He stated it had been referred to the Law Department to review the matter.

Chairman Leahy recognized Attorneys Lisa Ball and Jenna Wellhoff from the Law Department, as well as Scott DeFelice representing the Citizens of Holyoke group.

K. Foley suggested that the public policy related to the 11 Yale St facility would exacerbate issues surrounding poverty, school quality, public safety, access to quality food, life expectancy. He then stated that the Mental health Association (MHA) application to the city misrepresented the nature of the facility. He then suggested that the permit would not have been issued if they provided the same information as had been provided to the Department of Public Health (DPH) for a contract for services. He noted that the documents provided to the city and to DPH described two different facilities. He also noted that the zoning ordinances allow group homes as of right based on medical care being provided as a secondary or lesser importance. He suggested that the facility was providing medical services as a primary function, noting that he could present expert testimony on the matter. He questioned the city’s position that they should not perform due diligence to assure an application is submitted accurately. He asked that the city review the facts to determine if MHA was in compliance with zoning regulations. He also suggested that the city change the zoning regulations in order to require a special permit for simar facilities.

S. DeFelice emphasized a need to understand the truth in this matter. He noted that two claims were being made: that 11 Yale St was operating as a medical facility, and that the city’s process had been improper. He stated that the evidence had been clear that it was a medical facility according to professionals in the field. He noted that there had been a case hearing in which a judge stated that the city ran an improper process. He suggested that the situation was politically charged, noting that there had been an effort by MHA to take advantage of the city. He then state that the goal should be to address the fact that it was a medical facility, adding that the city needed to rescind on the basis that the project had been misrepresented on the application.

Atty Ball noted that she had been in her position for just a few weeks and had been working to get updated on the matter. She noted that a summary judgement had been issued on April 28th. She also stated it had been her understanding that the plaintiffs’ claims were that the permit should no have been issues and that the permit should not have been upheld by the zoning board. She expressed it had been her understanding of the judgement that it would have been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction had the claim of the plaintiff been based solely on the issuance of the permit. She then noted that a transcript of the recent hearing would be provided, giving an opportunity for the plaintiffs to respond. She then stated that the city would also be able to file supplemental writings. She also noted that motions would continue to be filed and the judge would be making a decision on what had been proper or improper.

Councilor Greaney stated that he had not recalled a special permit being granted for the project.

Chairman Leahy clarified that a special permit had not been granted as it was allowed as of right for educational purposes.

Councilor McGee stated that noting had come before the City Council.

S. DeFelice stated that there had never been an argument that it was an educational facility, noting that it was a group home.

Councilor Greaney suggested that the City Council should have been involved.

Councilor McGiverin noted that the most important detail needed would be to determine the definition of what the facility was. He noted that a group home was considered to be an educational facility. He also recalled a court case in the 1980’s declaring that it had been unconstitutional for the city to control a halfway house in requiring a special permit through zoning laws. He added that it would make a difference if the facility is for-profit. He suggested that the situation on Yale St had been improper, adding that it would be up to the Law Department to determine what could be done.

Councilor McGee noted that he requested the Law Department review the matter. He suggested tabling the item in order for the Law Department to review the court transcripts.

Chairman Leahy made a motion to table the items. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

Councilor Lisi made a motion to adjourn. Chairman Leahy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

Adjourned at 7:38 PM


Jeffery Anderson-Burgos
Administrative Assistant to the City Council

Holyoke City Hall
536 Dwight St, Room 10
Holyoke, MA 01040
Regular hours 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Meeting days 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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