Read this candidate statement as it appeared in TAPinto Westfield on September 7, 2021.
Believe it or not, the first day of school is this week! As one of your Ward 1 Council representatives, I am often asked about school-related topics. I defer all these questions to the Board of Education except for those related to getting to school. It is the Town Council who has responsibility for ensuring that our kids get to school safely.
For many years, the Westfield Police Department (WPD) managed a town-wide program of crossing guards, including hiring, training, day-to-day operations and handling payroll and benefits. When a crossing guard called in sick, a police officer was required to cover the post. In recent times, finding responsible and engaging adults like some of our beloved long-timers (Bob of Washington School, Jessica of Franklin and John of Wilson) became increasingly difficult. The situation was so challenging in 2018 that we were covering almost half of our ~45 crossing guard posts town-wide with WPD personnel.
This steady police coverage introduced new safety issues related to removing multiple officers from other duties 2x/day for a total of 3.5-4 hours ... and frankly some cost issues. We needed to understand how we could improve safety while also managing costs. So, I asked the Investment Advisory Council, a Westfield resident group I established in 2018, to help us evaluate the investment and budget elements surrounding the outsourcing decision. The IAC regularly assists the Finance Policy Committee (which I chair), and I also conferred with the Public Safety, Transportation and Parking Committee in order to arrive at a recommendation that put safety first, and budget a strong second.
The committees jointly assessed all the outsourcing options, as well as the direct and indirect costs, and built a proforma analysis which showed that we could hire the most respected crossing guard company in the US and still save some money. All City (www.acmssafety.com) has 33 years of experience running 260+ programs in 25 states. They have helped us to optimize the program significantly and have upheld our standards of safety. ACMS also offered wage increases and incremental training to all of our legacy crossing guards along with equivalent benefits. Moreover, they have collaborated very well with our WPD, which is still ultimately in charge of our children’s welfare.
Understandably, some of the change has been hard, but having a safety expert on our side has been invaluable — particularly when we can also save taxpayers money and keep our police on the streets. We revisit this outsourcing decision annually to ensure it remains a net positive, so please pass along your feedback to me as school restarts. I want to make sure that this continues to be a win-win!