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Take My Council, Please: Atoning for the Acts of Omission…


Whose asphalt? (WMP&I and Google images)

The Springfield City Council digested a simple agenda quickly on Monday. The only scent of discord arose from a split vote to transfer funds over a lawsuit. However, that conversation took place in executive session. The public highlights involved revised handicap parking and revival of a Truman-era special permit to store asphalt. 

The police settlement concerned a transfer of $900,000. As of Monday, it was apparent that it was to settle a wrongful death claim for Madelyn Linsenmeir. The 30 year-old Vermonter died in 2018 after falling ill while in police custody. The suit began in 2020 the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts sued on behalf of her estate. 

Councilors Malo Brown, Sean Curran, Brian Santaniello and Tracye Whitfield participated in Monday’s meeting virtually. 

The meeting opened with committee reports. Audit Committee Chair Jose Delgado, an at-large councilor, said his panel had received a review of cash handling at the Cyr Arena. However, Delgado noted that the Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management Department was working to apply recommendations to make improvements. He also said Audit received details of a cybersecurity review, but assured it was a regular examination, not in response to any breach. 

Other reports came from Environment & Sustainability, Finance, Health & Human Services Impacted Neighborhood Stabilization Fund Oversight (INSFO) and Maintenance & Development. The INSFO committee oversees revenues collected to benefit neighborhoods that host marijuana dispensaries. Chair Maria Perez said the meeting was just about the overall collection of funds. 

Comptroller Pat Burns shared the February revenue & expenditure report. He said revenue was slightly ahead while spending was on target. The Council also heard from retired Parks chief Patrick Sullivan. He was at the meeting to receive confirmation to joint the Barney Estate Board. Councilor confirmed Sullivan, offering a wave of adulation for him along the way. 

The Council also greenlit utility reports to open streets for Eversource and a fiberoptic company Crown Castle. The affected locations Carew Street between Main and Dwight Streets, Springfield Street between Atwater Road and Armory Street and Dwight Street at Union Station. 

Palmer Paving

The Council did not tank Palmer’s asphalt. (via Peckham Industries)

One of the lengthier debates during an otherwise short meeting arose around a new license for asphalt storage tanks at 1000 Page Boulevard. Palmer Paving Corporation, the less villainous of Palmer-named companies in the city, operates the tanks at its East Springfield facility. Nonetheless, the company’s attorney, Seth Stratton, explained the state fire marshal could not approve the tanks without the license from the city. 

Unfortunately, Stratton explained, the original license dates to 1950. Despite a diligent search, neither the city nor Palmer Paving could find a copy. The only other option was to receive a new one from the City Council. 

Councilors questioned Stratton on a range of issues. He explained that the existing tanks faced decommissioning. The facility had been operating legally, however the new tanks to replace the old ones triggered the review that requires proof of the license. Oddly, councilors tried to steer the conversation to what streets the relevant asphalt would pave and when. Eventually, the body approved the license without dissent. 

Councilors approved small grants and donations for the Library and Police Departments. The police item pertained to an anti-heroin task force. Finance Committee Chair and Ward 7 Councilor Timothy Allen said he would hold a hearing on the city’s share of the opioid settlement soon. Councilors also allowed payment for $612 in bills from prior years. 

The body allowed the School Department to enter into four-year lease agreements for student and staff computers. Under state law, all contracts that exceed three years require City Council sanction. This includes the School Department. Robert St. Lawrence, the School Department’s Chief Information Officer, explained this followed a four-year replacement policy officials established in 2013. 

Councilors again took first step on an ordinance to abolish term limits on the Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The body had taken first step before, but the ordinance has required redrafting. In its prior forms, the text abolished the description of the CPC’s terms entirely. It was not immediately clear whether this correction was part of what had passed on Monday. 

The Council also approved a revision to the rules of the road to reshuffle downtown handicap parking spaces. Public Works czar Chris Cignoli explained that construction of the new MassMutual Center parking garage would temporarily take over many existing handicap spaces.  

Cignoli said Bruce Landon Way, formerly East Court Street, would temporarily close and with it the handicap parking there. The city will establish new handicap spaces along Dwight Street. The order to revise the Rules of the Road contains language to revert to the old spaces upon the garage’s completion. 

Councilors peppered Cignoli with some questions, but the change received approval without dissent. 

The Council then went into executive session to discuss the Linsenmeir settlement. When it returned about an hour later, the transfer passed 7-4. Councilors Delgado, Lavar Click-Bruce, Victor Davila and Michael Fenton dissented. Councilors Curran and Santaniello were not present for the vote. 

Police had arrested Linsenmeir, who had struggled with drug addiction throughout her life, as a fugitive from charges in New Hampshire. While in police custody, Linsenmeir complained of pain. She was transferred to the Hampden Sheriff’s regional correctional center where her estate has alleged she did not receive proper care. Days later, the sheriff’s office moved her to a hospital where she died. 

Councilor Whitfield told The Republican she had voted for the transfer because the Council had approved funds once before. However, the fiscal year ended before the parties settled. 



Filings the ACLU of Massachusetts posted online indicate that the parties had recently filed for summary judgment. That means that unless the city prevailed, this case was likely to drag out for some time.  

The split vote and the lengthy closed session indicates that councilors had their differences. Still, settlement spares the city that and perhaps offers the Linsenmeir family some closure.