Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner reports on positives in State of the City address

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner during her State of the City address from the John Zon Community Center Thursday night. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner speaks at the John Zon Community Center Thursday night. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner makes a point during her State of the City address from the John Zon Community Center Thursday night. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/28/2022 12:47:54 PM

Editor’s note: The Greenfield Recorder is making Mayor Roxann Wedegartner’s full speech available free for readers online at recorder.com.

GREENFIELD — In a State of the City address Thursday night, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said despite “an extremely challenging revenue-generating time,” the city is in better financial shape than expected.

“Maintaining the city’s financial stability through these challenges has required a great deal of sacrifice on the part of city departments and employees,” she said from the John Zon Community Center Thursday night. “While at the same time, we adhered closely to our strong municipal financial management policies.”

She touted a drop in the tax rate — the largest decrease in 10 years — as a result of the city’s efforts in seeking grants, adhering to strict policy on capital borrowing and better using technology to receive and manage money. Wedegartner noted the strong real estate market also played a role, though acknowledged the double-edged sword that higher real estate values have on tax bills.

“However, our overall long-term financial stability depends on the city increasing the market value of its real property,” she said. “All of this goes into how we’re able to increase our stabilization funds, hold the line for now on taxes and maintain our excellent AA- bond rating. Because of this, we’re able to take advantage of very low interest rates to invest in those projects that make a strong community: public safety, libraries and infrastructure, all of it within our debt limit for the next several years.”

Wedegartner delivered her address Thursday night not once, but twice, following technical difficulties that resulted in Greenfield Community Television (GCTV) not livestreaming it as originally planned.

“Groundhog Day came early this year,” she said, welcoming guests once again to the John Zon Community Center. The audience was made up mostly of department heads and other city officials.

In her roughly 30-minute address, Wedegartner began by reflecting on the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began not long after she was sworn into office in January 2020. In that time, she said, the city has seen 3,002 cases and 118 deaths.

“I can honestly say, however, that this city — and that includes you, my fellow citizens — managed COVID-19 with expertise, resilience and success,” Wedegartner said.

She outlined the various steps the city took in response to the pandemic, from establishing a contact tracing system, to ensuring students had the proper equipment to handle school remotely, and setting up restaurants with the tools they needed to pivot their operations to takeout. Wedegartner noted the state-funded mobile vaccine clinic is scheduled to be at the John Zon Community Center on Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 2 to 6 p.m. Registration is available online.

“Vaccination, including boosters, remain one of our best hopes of getting to the eventual end of the pandemic,” Wedegartner said.

Looking forward, she said the city plans to focus on advancing business development, particularly working with MassDevelopment on the continued expansion of the Interstate 91 Industrial Park, making two sites available for expansion of existing businesses or acquisition by new businesses.

On the Mohawk Trail, Wedegartner said residents can expect to see site development soon at the former Rodeway Inn property.

“Phase I of the hotel and retail development will be starting soon,” she said. “This development is green-lit and citizens will see development there in the next few months.”

She remarked also on the cannabis industry as a “burgeoning business sector” in Greenfield, noting the city’s 10 host community agreements for businesses in various stages of permitting and licensing.

Patriot Care, the city’s first medical/recreational marijuana retail shop, has generated revenue that helped to make up where other revenues went down, she noted. Since 2019, the business has provided the city nearly $1.1 million from its 3% impact fee, the state tax reimbursement and the original host fees.

“Think about that times 10, folks,” Wedegartner said, referencing the planned future establishments.

To address improvements needed for local infrastructure, which is typically supported by capital funding, Wedegartner said the city is “pivoting” the use of some of its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money to those projects.

“It was utilized to complete major replacement of water and sewer mains on West Street at the end of last year,” she said.

CDBG money will also be used to contract with engineering firms to make future infrastructure projects more eligible for funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

In her closing remarks, Wedegartner highlighted a few additional achievements over the last two years, namely in the success the city has had addressing climate change, and the hiring of two trained social workers to work alongside police officers. She also noted the city continues its efforts in facilitating conversations to address the need for housing, noting $25,000 in ARPA money was allocated for the Greenfield Housing Authority and $25,000 has been given to the Interfaith Council of Franklin County’s Housing Assistance Committee to help individuals in need of short-term housing support.

Wedegartner assured residents that while “the challenges are great,” work gets done despite them.

“We can’t know right now how this year will shake out financially,” Wedegartner said. “But we do know that we will operate with this one tenant: fiscal responsibility and accountability to the residents of Greenfield.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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