Gov. Patrick won’t go to Westover

Declined invitation to discuss housing of immigrant children

BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Deval Patrick says that he will not take Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos and Representative Joseph Wagner up on their offer to visit the city to discuss his proposal to house unaccompanied immigrant children at Westover Air Reserve Base.

Responding to a question from 22News State House Reporter Tiffany Chan after a cabinet meeting Friday, Patrick said that both Kos and Wagner already have the information they need about the proposal.

“I don’t intend to go, the rep’s been briefed, the mayor’s been briefed. When and if the federal government decides that they want to use Westover, there will be plenty of time to engage,” Patrick said.

“It’s not that there’s no interest, he’s (Wagner) been briefed, so has the mayor been briefed on what we know.”

On Thursday, Kos and Wagner held a news conference at Chicopee City Hall, calling on the governor to visit the city and tour the facilities at Westover. Both men are opposed to housing up to 1,000 children at the base; saying that it would be impossible to accommodate them and maintain the base in its military function.

Many unanswered questions remain such as, when a location would be chosen, exactly how many children would be brought there, and how much it would all cost taxpayers. Patrick said Friday that his proposal would involve the use of land at Westover, and not existing barracks for reservists. He said that there are no updates from the federal government at this time as to whether Westover or Camp Edwards on Cape Cod have been deemed acceptable places for the children.

Representative Wagner said that he’s not surprised by Patrick’s response. Despite what governor says, the Chicopee Democrat also doesn’t believe local or state officials were properly briefed on the matter.

“I think that had the Governor taken us up on our invitation to come to Chicopee, that we could have had a healthy and productive dialog,” Wagner said.

Even with so many unanswered questions, one thing we do know is that if Westover is chosen by the federal government, it’s going to take some time before the children would be sheltered in Chicopee.

“There’s a long process,” Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz said. “They (federal officials) have to come and look at the site; they have to evaluate it if in fact it was ultimately chosen. You know, there’s probably work to be done in order to make it a secure facility, so it’s still going to be some time.”

Governor Patrick’s proposal is now in the hands of the federal government, so if Westover is chosen, local and state-level government would have very little say in the matter.

Mayor Kos’ response to Governor Patrick’s decision Friday was: “I am disappointed, but not surprised. I hope that the Governor will reconsider his decision to not come to Chicopee as the invitation will continue to remain open.”

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