City Council meeting to tackle library, Civil Service

  • The Greenfield City Council voted in favor to approve a deal for a new library in March. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2019 10:33:16 PM

GREENFIELD — The City Council will decide tonight if it wants to honor a citizen’s petition on the library and send it to the polls, and then whether it wants to put the question before residents in a special election or at the November election. 

The council will also decide if it wants to effectively end Civil Service for the city’s police officers. 

The Greenfield Police Department and the Public Safety Commission have advocated for the reform to ease the ability to make quality hires, swiftly, instead of yielding to a system that has evolved to cater to the needs of a major urban police department.

The two issues will lead the Greenfield City Council meeting tonight, 7 p.m. at the Greenfield High School auditorium. 

Given the renewed debate around the library issue, city officials moved the meeting to the auditorium to accommodate the potential turnout. 

The $51.3 million budget may also be a conversation point during the meeting. A penultimate budget deliberation will be held Thursday by the council’s Ways and Means Committee. 

The vote on the spending plan will come next week, May 22, which may center around to what extent the city can fund the public schools. 

The issue of Civil Service has flown under the radar while city officials have wrestled with the politics around paying for a new public library. 

Early on, city officials had to research how to remove Civil Service from the department. It has to be taken out the same way it was brought in, the officials said. 

For rank-and-file officers, Civil Service was the product of a Town Meeting vote, which doesn’t exist anymore in today’s form of government in Greenfield. City officials have been informed it can be removed by a simple majority vote of the council, today’s legislative body of the city. 

To remove Civil Service from deciding the police chief, it would have to go to the ballot box. It could still be decided at November’s election. Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh has emphasized the desire to take care of the department’s officers first. 

Some councilors have expressed concern about whether to remove Civil Service for the chief, worrying that it could introduce politics into the hiring process, which would be led by the mayor. 

The police department and its union have been drafting hiring practices, some of which mimic the current promotion standards. 

City officials in favor of removing Civil Service have argued it limits the department from hiring qualified candidates. 

Age restrictions imposed by Civil Service limit the candidate pool. Others do not live close enough to Greenfield and already have homes and families in neighboring towns that technically fall out of the area that makes them eligible to work in Greenfield. 

Proponents of Civil Service often hark to days in which it worked for them and removed politics and prejudice from the hiring process. The actual process has evolved over the years, adjusting to city centers and not rural regions. 

Other topics

At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass has pitched the council to establish the Greenfield Patriotic Activities Committee. 

The committee will seek to “foster public participation and education related to patriotic activities sponsored by the City of Greenfield,” according to the description on the proposal. It will try to increase participation in the city’s activities for Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. 

The committee would include 31 members from various city departments, commissions, as well as designees with specific experiences. It would bring together the Veterans Service Officer and the Recreation Department to help unify the planned activities and ensure they are well thought out. 

The proposal for the committee initially ran into a few issues. Fellow councilors questioned its intent and cautioned the committee developing curricula for the city’s public schools. 

Additionally, the council may vote to reduce the city’s speed limit. 

A proposal by Precinct 7 Councilor Otis Wheeler, which has also bounced around in recent months, aims to lower the speed limit to 25 mph in thickly settled or business districts in Greenfield. 

One goal is to increase safety and decrease the potential risk of a serious injury or fatality to a pedestrian or driver. 

Cities like Chicopee and Springfield have previously lowered its speed limit to 25 mph.

A separate proposal from Wheeler dovetails, asking the city to establish safety zones that limit the speed to 20 mph.  

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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