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Hadley TM gives go-ahead to senior center, library

  • Hadley Town Administrator David Nixon speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley citizens vote to pass over an article for a new fire station during a meeting Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley Town Moderator Brian West speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Edwin Matuszko, at microphone, speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley resident Shel Horowitz, at microphone, speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley Selectman Donald Pipczynski speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley resident Bianca Epstein speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley resident Tom Touchette speaks during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley resident Ken Jacobson speaks Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of people stand at the back of the Hopkins Academy cafeteria during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. The room filled to capacity and the overflow watched the meeting on a TV monitor in the hallway. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley residents vote in favor of acquiring land needed for the construction of a proposed fire department substation during a meeting held to vote on three building projects and land acquisition Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. This group was forced to watch the meeting on a TV monitor after the cafeteria reached capacity. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hadley citizens vote for a new senior center during a meeting Tuesday at Hopkins Academy. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2017

HADLEY — A new library and a new senior center are moving forward after receiving overwhelming support from residents, who turned out for a special Town Meeting Tuesday that was likely the best attended session in Hadley in more than a decade.

After Town Meeting was delayed by about 30 minutes while voters continued to check in and the Hopkins Academy cafeteria reached its 472-person capacity, forcing about 20 residents into the hallway, both building projects easily cleared the needed two-thirds majority to authorize borrowing.

The $8.27 million library and $7.1 million senior center are still subject to a townwide Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion ballot vote Nov. 14.

“It felt pretty amazing,” Jo-ann Konieczny, chairwoman of the library trustees, said of the vote, which passed 449-28, with three abstentions.

Konieczny said approval of the $3.7 million to match the $3.9 million provisional grant award from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners means momentum for a fledgling capital campaign.

“The next step is getting people out for the November vote,” Konieczny said.

The library will be built on the site of Hooker School on Middle Street, where the senior center is currently located. Work will begin first on the new senior center, behind the school building, and be completed by 2019.

Town Meeting also agreed by a vote of 478-4, with six abstentions, to acquire, for $405,000, a 9.5-acre parcel at the intersection of River Drive and Stockbridge Sreet. The land could be the site of a new $2.9 million fire substation, likely at less cost than constructing a new substation next to its current location at North Hadley Hall.

Fire Chief Mike Spanknabel told Town Meeting that he and officials agreed to ask residents to pass over the additional $810,000 for the building’s construction so a more accurate estimate can be provided prior to an Oct. 5 special Town Meeting.

Even with the additional spending, Town Administrator David Nixon said officials are keeping to a pledge from October 2016 that annual property taxes will only go up by $95 for the typical single-family household, assessed at $313,000. This will be done by spreading the debt over a longer period, deferring projects as long as possible and retiring current debt.

The spending comes with some worries.

“We are a little concerned about our ability to keep up with our future capital needs,” Nixon said.

Library support

Still, library trustee Caryn Perley explained that trustees are asking for less than half the cost of the 11,800-square-foot building. “This is an amazing opportunity to build a new library suitable for the next 20 years,” Perley said.

The library already received an $85,000 bequest from late Select Board member Kate Nugent.

“Library trustees will be proud to honor her by naming the Kate Nugent Community Room in the new library,” Perley said.

The children’s room, meanwhile, will be dedicated to Sam Pollard, a Hadley Elementary School student who died of a rare disease in 2015, and was unable to use Goodwin.

“We felt the children’s room should be in honor of Sam,” Konieczny said.

His mother, Nina, spoke about how the library would benefit everyone. “It’s not just about books — it’s the only place in the community that is accessible to all,” Pollard said.

“If we turn this money down, it won’t come again, and we’ll still need a library,” said Sarah Strong, 205 Middle St.

Shel Horowitz, 16 Barstow Lane, said a library may have saved his life when he was bullied as a teen. “I was not a teenage suicide because I was an active library user,” Horowitz said.

But some questioned whether Hadley could afford all this spending, with priorities in the operating budget for public safety and other capital needs in the near future.

Joyce West, 216 Bay Road, said she would rather see money spent on replacing 100-year-old water lines and getting the Department of Public Works offices housed in a building, rather than a trailer. She was not willing to build “a Taj Mahal that is not going to get the young people out that you think.”

Ken Jacobson, 12 Bristol Lane, said officials should postpone all action until cheaper alternatives were found. “God forbid any taxes go down, and not up,” Jacobson said.

Senior Center

Residents gave the OK for the senior center to increase its price tag from $5.3 million to $7.1 million for a 12,000-square-foot, one-level building that will be built in an open field behind Hooker.

While the senior center also didn’t have much difficulty mustering support, 414-62, with five abstentions, residents questioned why the building would be exclusively for town elders, with Tony Fyden, 5 Cold Springs Road, making a motion to rename the building a “community center.”

This motion was ruled out of order by town counsel Joel Bard, who noted that voters last year already approved the bulk of the spending on the senior center.

Matt Waskiewicz, 127 Middle St., said the original $5.3 million approved last year should be sufficient for a building that would be used only by senior citizens.

Another resident, Bianca Epstein, 77 Hockanum Road, called for the building to be a “community-integrated” center.

“I really think Hadley lacks a community center and I really think it would be useful for all of us,” Epstein said.

The 492 residents, nearly 13 percent of the 3,891 registered voters, would have normally used the Hopkins gymnasium, but couldn’t since the floor was recently repolished. To create additional space in the cafetorium, elected and appointed committee members and town staff all sat on the stage.

The turnout was believed to be the largest for a Town Meeting in Hadley since a series of four meetings, beginning in August 2003 and concluding in May 2004, decided the fate of the zoning of a 12.8-acre Route 9 parcel for a Lowe’s home improvement store. Those meetings each drew around 700 residents.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com