By Chris Maza
WILBRAHAM – Will Caruana formally announced on March 4 after he pulled nomination papers that he would make a second run at the Board of Selectman.
The 24-year-old ran against former Selectman Patrick Brady when he was 19, losing a close race by a mere 35 votes days after his 20th birthday in 2009.
This time, he will pursue the seat to be vacated by Board of Selectmen Chair James Thompson, who recently announced he would not seek re-election.
The experience of his first run at public office as a teenager, Caruana said, has better prepared him not only for this run, but to become a better citizen in the town.
“The fact that I got to know this community better than I ever did before was and is a huge help to me,” he said. “I was able to sit down with people everyday and that was a great educational experience for me and I was able to gain a better appreciation for the town.”
Caruana has been an active member of the community, serving as president of the Friends of Wilbraham Public Access and chairman of the Broadband Committee. He has also worked in the area as in independent political consultant.
The Wilbraham native is a graduate of Minnechaug Regional High School and has a degree in political science from Salem State University.
Caruana stressed a need for better transparency in town, specifically when it comes to budgets and contracts.
“A perfect example is when I first ran [for selectman]. I asked for the draft budget and wasn’t able to get it. The notes of the draft budget that were given to the Finance Committee were withheld from me and the same thing has happened again this year,” he said. “If it’s going to be an open document, then it should be readily available to the public. We shouldn’t even have to ask for it.”
Caruana added that he was concerned with the lack of transparency in the process in which the town reached a surrounding community agreement with MGM Springfield. The agreement calls for $1.5 million in mitigation payments to the town over a 15 year period once the casino opens its doors, as well as one- and five-year “look backs.”
“I asked to see proposed contracts for MGM and was shut out,” he said. “I did work with Hard Rock and was very familiar with the gaming laws in this state, but the information was withheld until there was a signed agreement.”
Caruana also stressed the need for all departments to begin looking at alternative revenue sources in order to keep taxes reasonable for residents.
“We need to be exploring options. Every committee should be looking for new opportunities for revenue and it should be a directive by the Selectmen,” he said.
Caruana said his work with the Broadband Committee is focused on doing just that.
“It’s what I’ve been striving for with the Broadband Committee,” he said. “A new municipal communications infrastructure isn’t the be-all end-all, but we need to explore it because it could serve to bring competition against Charter [Communications] to town and it can be a revenue generator without raising taxes.”