Browse By

Take My Council, Please: Calm, Cool & Referred to Committee (for Now)…


Breathe. (WMP&I and Google images)

SPRINGFIELD—A quiet agenda reached the City Council after a rollicking couple of weeks in February. If anything, what defined the March 11 meeting was what did not happen. The Council did not take action on a new version of a tree ordinance, opioid funding or two street discontinuances. The new Chief Administrative & Financial Officer, Cathy Buono, made her debut at the Council. Yet, few items needed answers from her.

Perhaps the most significant development arose from committee reports. Health & Human Services Committee Chair Brian Santaniello reported on a joint meeting with General Government panel. The at-large councilor refocused the rabid racoon incident away from Fire Commissioner B.J. Calvi’s Mad Max-esque encounter with the creature and toward failures of animal control procedure.

Some councilors appeared a few minutes late, but all attended. Councilors Santaniello, Timothy Allen, Sean Curran and Zaida Govan attended virtually.

Santaniello’s remarks on the report were brief. However, to emphasize the procedure issue, he also noted the city’s improper disposal of the animal. Rather than bring it to state officials, they dumped it in Forest Park. More damning, however, was the administration only learned about this when WWLP, while seeking comment, told the City Solicitor.

Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards, who chaired a Finance Committee meeting for Allen, reported that the panel recommended keeping opioid settlement funds in committee. The city received over $1.5 million in funds from the settlement coming in. However, it must develop a plan for their use. While the Council must vote by May, Edwards said it would use the time to hold hearings and solicit public input.

The vote to committee was unanimous as was the acceptance of reports.

The Council acknowledged a zone change but did not need to take action Monday.

Marisa Zorzi

Shorter City Council: Welcome aboard, Marisa Zorzi! (via LinkedIn)

The body confirmed Marisa Zorzi to the Historical Commission without dissent. At-large Councilors Kateri Walsh and Tracye Whitfield in particular praised the appointment of a woman to one of the professional seats on the Commission. She will take a seat allocated for an architect. In brief remarks to the Council, Zorzi said she had reached out to the entity that makes the architect recommendation to the mayor. They had not filled their seat in some time and forwarded her name. She works as an architectural designer in Hartford.

Councilors also received the January revenue/expenditure report from Comptroller Patrick Burns. While the report suggests revenue was behind for that point in the year, Burns said this was due to a late payment from the state. Such revenue usually comes in January, but it arrived in early February. The Council accepted the report without dissent.

Utility reports for work under streets passed without any opposition. Eversource plans work on Breckwood Boulevard, Ellsworth Avenue and Freeman Terrace. In Ellsworth Avenue’s case, the work includes retirement of a low-pressure gas system and installation of a medium pressure one. An internet provider also had a report on Phillips Avenue.

The Council accepted Juliet Street to make it a public way. However, it referred discontinuances for Bucholz Street and part of Providence Street to committee. MassMutual, whose main campus is adjacent to these roads, bought all property abutting the proposed discontinuances. Once the city discontinues the street, the properties on each side extend to the center of the road. MassMutual could then demolish the roads and use the land as they wish.

Ward 4 Councilor Malo Brown, who represents the area, objected to passage on Monday. He indicated that there had not been sufficient outreach about the move. The Council deferred to him and sent the item to committee without dissent.

Councilors accepted grants under $50,000 for the Fire, Library and Public Works departments in one action. At-large Councilor Jose Delgado did not vote.

Public Works czar Chris Cignoli presented the acceptance of the city’s annual allotment of Chapter 90 road money. Each year, the state appropriates funds for municipalities to use for road work. Distribution follows a formula that consider population, road miles and jobs. However, the state has kept the overall appropriation flat for years.

Chris Cignoli

Cignoli: I’m cool for now. (still via Focus Springfield)

This prompted unusually loud consternation last year in Springfield and across the state. In response, the legislature and Governor Maura Healey authorizing bonding for additional Chapter 90 use. It is not clear how much of that the state has actually issued. However, for FY2025, Healey recommended using Fair Share funding from the millionaires tax to increase Chapter 90.

Despite all this background and history—and the annual game of which streets will hit the paving jackpot—debate was short. After Cignoli said Springfield was receiving about $20,000 less than last year, Santaniello asked if other communities received more. The DPW director assured that any such shifts were minor as the overall formula had not changed.

Among the streets the spring paving program will target are Breckwood Boulevard, Island Pond Road and West Columbus Avenue. The funds received unanimous Council approval.

Councilors also approved the quarterly $152,610 payment from Comcast for public access. The city will convey that funding to Focus Springfield, the city’s public access provider. Councilor Govan asked about translation services for the programming. Deputy CAFO Lindsay Hackett said she would inquire about it.

The body also greenlit a quitclaim deed for an abutting lot sale on Oak Street in the Old Hill neighborhood. It will become parking for a mosque.

Although the Council had voted on a tree ordinance at a meeting last month, it would not have been able to take final action Monday. The Council referred this back to committee anyway, but the ordinance has undergone redrafts. There, it will receive further review.

An amendment to the Community Preservation Committee ordinance was withdrawn. The Council’s final item was approval to pay bills from a prior year. Treasurer-Collector Stephen Lonergan told councilors that some of the bills had gone to Springfield, Illinois somehow. He said his office got the vender to cancel the late fees. After a laugh, the body approved the payments without dissent.



The mundane was undoubtedly welcome in the Council chamber after the February the body had experienced. While the racoon incident will undoubtedly continue to vex, Council attention is on the failure of procedure. It is possible legislation could arise, but its role is fundamentally oversight at this point. Aside from the budget, no other tempests appear imminent. Except, of course, for the possible collision of municipal and state politics in a state election year.

Even the mundane could become fodder on the campaign trail under such circumstances.