Hadley TM affirms support for senior center project

  • The Hadley Senior Community Center and Goodwin Memorial Library.

Staff Writer
Thursday, May 10, 2018

HADLEY — Residents at annual Town Meeting May 3 again overwhelmingly supported construction of a new senior center, turning aside two petitions submitted by members of the American Legion aimed at either moving the project from town center or stopping it entirely.

By a decisive 323-124 ballot vote, voters rejected an article to move the project to a 9-acre parcel in North Hadley from the 2.6 acre in town center behind the former Hooker School, the current home of the senior center.

In an almost identical outcome, residents voted 299-117 against rescinding the $7.1 million in senior center funding, which has been supported through four previous votes.

Lynn McKenna, of Kentfield Drive, said residents should heed the advice of the town’s master plan to have a senior center and new library building be part of town center.

“Particularly in the case of the senior center, why would we ask seniors to travel or to be bused to North Hadley?” McKenna said.

Former Select Board member Donald Pipczynski, an advocate and member of the American Legion for 43 years, said the petitions were an opportunity to reach a compromise over the Legion’s upper parking lot, which it has used for decades but which is town-owned. The new senior center will be built on that overflow lot.

“This is a battle that the Legion never wanted to fight,” Pipczynski said.

He suggested that moving the senior center project to North Hadley would ensure the library has more space for its new building, to be constructed on the site of the Hooker building.

“The present site allows no expansion whatsoever,” Pipczynski said.

But David Tudryn, chairman of the Municipal Buildings Committee, said his committee follows the master plan, which suggests public buildings be constructed near the town center and close to 55-and-over housing projects.

Tudryn called the current plan for a senior center and library campus the most efficient, maintainable and cost-effective, and will actually provide additional parking for the Legion.

Suzanne Travisano, Council on Aging director, said she has pledged to let the Legion use the new senior center parking.

“We would love to have you use our lot for overflow parking,” Travisano said.

Bianca Epstein of Hockanum Road said it is absurd that the Legion is so passionate about parking.

“If we can’t create 40 parking spaces in town center, what sort of town are we?” Epstein said.

Richard Wilga of Chmura Road said there is definitely a need for compromise.

“All they have to do is move (the senior center) slightly west and that would solve the whole problem,” Wilga said.

Randy Izer of Autumn View Drive said compromise is providing the Legion a new parking option.

“The Legion says ‘gives us our parking or we sue.’ That’s not a compromise,” Izer said.

Before the votes, Joel Bard of KP Law explained that both votes would be nonbinding because Town Meeting has twice authorized borrowing as a legislative body, and the Select Board already executed contracts to begin the project.

He said the petition articles could only be advisory.

“It’s my opinion, those actions are outside of the authority of Town Meeting,” Bard said.

Planning Board member John Mieczkowski offered a different legal opinion. “There is no contract on either project,” Mieczkowski said.

He also said both projects should be subject to more thorough review. “We’re looking to say do this the right way and give a second look at this,” Mieczkowski said.

Tony Fyden of Cold Spring Lane suggested an amendment to have the senior center project put on hold until a compromise is reached. That amendment was defeated before the votes.

With little discussion, voters also approved an $18.29 million fiscal 2019 budget.

The big increase in the budget is for fire department salaries, going up from $373,481 to $464,175 to add new positions, while the cost of ambulance service is increasing from $140,000 to $267,500. The budget for the schools is rising from $6.93 million to $7.04 million

Several capital items were also approved, including $170,000 for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Hadley Elementary School, $855,400 for building the fire substation, which already has $2.9 million appropriated, and $100,000 for a new septage vehicle for the Sewer Department.

But nearing 11 p.m., Moderator Brian West called a halt to proceedings and residents voted to resume the warrant May 10 at 7 p.m. at Hopkins Academy, when voters will decide whether to make the collector and treasurer positions appointed and adopt instant runoff voting for town elections, among other items.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.