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Six-article warrant released for Special Town Meeting

Aug. 6, 2014 | Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – A six-article warrant has been posted in advance of the upcoming Special Town Meeting.

The meeting, which will take place on Aug. 18 at Minnechaug Regional High School, was called primarily to address borrowing to fund needed improvements to Wilbraham Schools.

“What people have to understand is while we are part of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD), the town is responsible for the upkeep of the buildings,” Board of Selectmen Chair Robert Russell said. “One of the complaints people had about Minnechaug was that we didn’t take care of it and then it was falling apart. We don’t want that to happen again.”

The Board of Selectmen called the Special Town Meeting on July 7 after HWRSD Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea asked the town to consider taking part in an accelerated repair program sponsored by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) in order to replace the roof at Wilbraham Middle School and windows at Soule Road School.

According to MSBA projections provided by O’Shea, the projects would cost an estimated $3.7 million – $2.2 million for Wilbraham Middle School and $1.7 million for Soule Road School. 

O’Shea noted that through the program the MSBA would reimburse 53.7 percent of the total project costs.

Russell noted that the projects were already identified on the Capital Improvement Plan and said it would be prudent for the town to take advantage of the help from the state.

“These projects need to be done and we can do them and pay the full price, or we can do them and receive substantial reimbursement,” he said.

The warrant contains four separate articles regarding the projects.

Articles 1 and 2 call for residents to vote to approve borrowing $70,000 and $60,000 for the purpose of conducting feasibility studies for the two proposed projects.

Articles 3 and 4 ask if residents will permit the borrowing of an unspecified amount to pay all project costs associated with the improvements.

All four articles are contingent upon the town participating in the MSBA’s program.

Article 5, while unrelated to the building projects, still involves the schools. It requests that residents approve the amending of the town’s agreement with the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee that would change the start date of newly elected officers. Currently, new members begin work with the committee as soon as they are elected and sworn in. Under the change, the elected would not begin their term until July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

“The problem is if someone new is elected and someone else goes out, those changes are happening right in the middle of the budgeting process,” Russell said.

Article 6 would allow the town to establish a Municipal Light Plant enterprise fund, effective fiscal year 2015. The town voted to allow the establishment of a Municipal Light Plant, which would allow the town to develop a broadband infrastructure through which it could sell the service at a competitive rate, at the May 12 Annual Town Meeting.

“Given what we’ve heard [regarding the pending Comcast/Charter Communications customer swap], it might not be a bad thing to have a little competition,” Russell said.

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