|By Chris Maza|
WILBRAHAM – The Board of Selectmen voted at its Oct. 28 meeting to participate in the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s (PVPC) regional review process of Mohegan Sun’s impact studies relating to its proposed Palmer Casino.
Selectman Robert Russell made the motion, seconded by Selectman Robert Boilard, that allowed the town’s special counsel, Kopelman & Paige, P.C., to inform the PVPC of their willingness to take part, with the stipulation that the attorneys would relay “the Town’s concerns regarding the adequacy of the proposed budget and the likely need for retention of outside experts by the Regional Planning Commission to assist in evaluating the likely impacts of the proposed Mohegan Sun development.”
While the PVPC is conducting the review of MGM’s traffic study only, in which Wilbraham is also participating, its vetting of Mohegan Sun’s findings will be more all-encompassing, including social and economic impacts as well.
The Selectmen also appointed Paul Eckness as a new member of the Conservation Commission.
Eckness has been a teacher at Wilbraham & Monson Academy for 22 years who touts a great deal of experience in conservation of wetlands and watersheds, including a dissertation for his doctorate on watershed management. In his interview with the board at its Oct. 7 meeting, he pointed to that knowledge and his research abilities as the strengths he could bring to the commission.
Eckness beat out Edna Colcord for the position. Boilard said that while Colcord was a valued and active member of the community, Eckness provides an opportunity for the town.
“Edna’s been around here for a long time, but I think with Paul Eckness, we have the opportunity to tap into Wilbraham & Monson Academy as a resource, which is something we haven’t done that often,” he said. “Between that and his background, I think he would be a real benefit.”
Russell and Board of Selectmen Chair James Thompson agreed that it was important to take advantage of community involvement from the academy, which Russell pointed out it has been willing to offer.
The board also interviewed four candidates for an opening on the Finance Committee.
Zbigniewik Kielczewski, who moved to Wilbraham in February after spending 19 years in Chapel Hill, N.C., has a masters and Ph.D. in mathematics and said he has been “directly involved in the business architecture of Cisco Systems.”
He said he has not been involved in town finance before, but has extensive experience in corporate finance.
When asked why he was interested in joining the committee, he said, “It’s critical to understand how the community is going and being involved is the way to do that. Talking to neighbors isn’t enough.”
James Veale, also a relative newcomer to the town, having returned to Western Massachusetts four months ago in his retirement, touted his experience as the vice president of finance for three manufacturing companies, including Smith & Wesson.
He said his recent battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma has played a role in his desire to be more active in the community. He is on the board of directors for Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, an AmeriCorps program that offers educational opportunities to at-risk children, and has been active in chambers of commerce and the Leukemia Society.
“After an experience like that you want to give back when you can,” he said, adding he had no political agendas or preconceived notions on the committee.
James Mapplethorpe stressed his accounting background, which included work with Scandinavian Airlines and Waste Management, as well as his experience as a financial advisor.
“My experience in budgeting in the corporate environment I what I bring most to the table,” he said.
He added that having lived in town since 1995, he has a good understanding of how Wilbraham operates.
John Guzzo, a 16-year resident, interviewed for a spot on the committee the fourth time. He said his experience included 20 years in the food service industry, followed by work with manufacturing companies, including 10 years as the leader of operations at LENOX in East Longmeadow.
“Finance is a big part of what I do,” he said. “As you can see, commitment is something I have, seeing as this is my fourth time trying to get an opportunity.”
He said he would like join the committee in order to learn more about how the town works and to meet people in the community.
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