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Greenfield mayor highlights progress, successes in State of the City address

Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner delivers the 2023 State-of-the-City Address
Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner delivers the 2023 State of the City Address

Hoped building trust between police department, community would be "much further along"

The mayor of Greenfield, Massachusetts delivered a State of the City address this week.

In a wide-ranging 30-minute speech, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner highlighted successes including progress on municipal building projects, plans for downtown development that include more housing, efforts to lure new jobs to the Franklin County city, and the lowering of the property tax rate.

“I can say with great confidence tonight that we have stayed the course and remain on a path toward progress and success for Greenfield,” Wedegartner said.

The first-term mayor also addressed the controversy surrounding the city’s police department in the aftermath of a jury verdict last year that found a Black officer was denied a promotion because of racial discrimination.

Most of the speech, as would be expected, focused on the positive. Wedegartner highlighted the groundbreaking in 2022 for a new $19.5 million public library, the siting for a new $22 million fire station, and the groundbreaking for a new downtown skate park.

She said her administration has a “robust downtown redevelopment strategy” keyed around the sale last year of the Wilson’s Department Store building to developers who plan to build a cooperative grocery store and 65 apartments.

“Upper story redevelopment is a significant building block in our efforts to create more business development and housing in Greenfield,” Wedegartner said.

Between the Wilson’s project and another one the city is investing in, there will be 101 new apartments in the downtown area, said Wedegartner.

“It is not a secret that we have many unhoused individuals and families in Greenfield,” she said. “However, the city cannot afford to provide housing for everyone that needs it on a temporary or permanent basis, so we work with our social service partners to solve some of the housing problems for our homeless population.”

To attract more jobs to Greenfield, the city continues to work to rezone roughly 40 acres of land across from the I-91 Industrial Park where space for new manufacturers – or expanding existing ones – is sparse.

“We must stop losing business to our neighboring communities,” Wedegartner said. “This is how we do it – more planned industrial space is on the way.”

Another achievement highlighted by Wedegartner was the setting of a new property tax rate that is the lowest in more than a decade. She credited “prudent municipal financial policies” while also acknowledging the unprecedented sums of COVID recovery money that has come from the federal and state governments to the city.

Wedegartner said the jury’s decision in the lawsuit against the police department and Chief Robert Haigh which is being appealed, was “painful” and “devasting” for her. After the verdict, the Greenfield City Council voted to cut the police department’s budget and rejected a request from the mayor for funds to pay for an independent audit of the department.

“I had high hopes that we would be much further along in improving our police department and continuing to build trust in it within our community,” Wedegartner said.

A veteran of Greenfield government, Wedegartner won a close election in 2019 to become Greenfield’s third mayor. She has not yet publicly said if she will seek re-election this year to a second term.

“We can accomplish much more when we work together rather than at odds with one another,” Wedegartner said near the conclusion of the speech. “ It’s not about ‘social media gothas’ or personal gain at the expense of progress. It’s about doing the work, working together, for you the residents of Greenfield.”

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.