A look back at top town news
Jan. 3, 2011
Superintendent, principal search interviews to take place shortly
This spring, the East Longmeadow Public Schools and the parents of their students will be seeing two important positions filled that of the superintendent and that of Richard Freccero, the retiring high school principal.
The School Committee presented updates on the searches for these two positions at their meeting last Monday night (March 9).
This week, the Superintendent Search Committee will be interviewing the semi-finalists for the position. On March 22 at 6:30 p.m., an open session meeting will have the screening committee presenting a list of finalists to the School Committee.
The final interviews will take place in open session on April 5, 6 and 7 starting at 6:30 p.m., with the School Committee voting to appoint the new superintendent on April 7.
Twelve administrators applied for the position.
A total of 11 candidates applied for the high school principal position, and that number was narrowed to six by that search committee on Thursday.
"On March 15, [the search committee] will have its final interviews and we'll most likely cut the number of finalists to three," School Committee member Bob Mazzariello, head of the principal search committee, said. "We'll send those top three on to the final interviews with the School Committee on either March 22 or April 5, pending finalist approval by the search committee."
Michael Knybel was selected as the new principal of East Longmeadow High School. Gordon Smith, former as principal of Ludlow High School, was selected as the new Superintendent of the East Longmeadow Public School system.
Voters turn down green proposals, federal stormwater bylaw at meeting continuation
A week after the town's Annual Town Meeting began (May 17), it ended with the failure of articles that could help East Longmeadow become a certified Green Community.
The state's Green Communities Division empowers cities and towns to reduce their energy use and their carbon footprint on the journey towards healthier communities and stronger economies, according to the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. By following certain guidelines and instituting certain bylaws, a town could become eligible to take grant money from a pool of up to $10 million.
Article 21 of the Annual Town Meeting warrant asked voters to approve the adoption of the Stretch Energy Code, which would regulate the design and construction of new buildings and building additions for the effective use of energy. Adopting the code is one of the Green Communities requirements.
Selectman Jim Driscoll, who presented the article, said adopting the code made sense both environmentally and economically.
Driscoll pointed out there isn't a large difference between the International Code Council's 2009 regulations and the Stretch Energy Code, and that by 2012 building codes will be tougher than what is proposed in the Stretch Energy Code.
"This will happen," he stated. "Either we adopt it now and get the benefits of being proactive [by being able to apply for grant money] or we just sit back and let it happen."
Despite the inevitability of the stricter building codes, many of those at the meeting did not support the adoption of the Stretch Energy Code. Builder Bill Laplante said the additional costs associated with constructing according to the code could bar young families and retirees from building new homes in East Longmeadow.
Stretch Energy resurfaced on the warrant for the Sept. 27 Special Town Meeting, but was not presented and no action was taken. According to law, some bylaw changes cannot be brought back before the town for two years after having been voted down.
Long-awaited East Longmeadow bike trail opens Sept. 9
The town of East Longmeadow is ready to tell its residents to take a walk.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) (hosted) a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new bike/rail trail on Sept. 9 at 11 a.m.
The event will mark the end of a 15-year saga for the trail and its creators.
"A lot of people thought the project was dead," DPW Project Manager Sean Kelley said. "It took probably four years of working with an engineering outfit to put those plans together and those plans were done in stages. At each stage, the Massachusetts Highway Department. would do an internal review of the plans, making sure they had no issues and making sure that it complied with Federal guidelines."
The majority of the funding for the project came from the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) from the Federal Highway Administration. The rest of the money came from state funding.
The trail runs from Denslow Road to Maple Street. Most of the land is owned by the town, aside from the section between Industrial Drive and Denslow Road. In order to use that land, the town had to get a permanent easement from Hasbro Corp. to use the property, according to Kelley.
The trail is open to bicyclists, walkers, joggers and those on any non-motorized mode of conveyance.
Jesus Garcia arrested for murder of Hampden's Valerie Girouard
A representative from the District Attorney's office confirmed to Reminder Publications that District Attorney William M. Bennett would prosecute 19-year-old Jesus Gilberto Garcia for murdering the 47-year-old Girouard of 90 Main St. in Hampden, as well as eight other charges. Bennett was on vacation and not available for comment at press time.
Garcia was arraigned in the Hampden County District Court in Palmer on July 30 and charged with one count of murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder while armed, two counts of attempt to commit aggravated rape, one count of home invasion and three counts of assault in a dwelling while armed, according to the District Attorney's office.
Court documents report that Hampden police responded to a 911 call at 3 a.m. on July 30 stating a man had been stabbed or shot.
In the course of responding to the call, Hampden police officers Jason Roath and David Houle found Girouard's 15-year-old daughter running down the middle of the road towards them.
She went on to identify Garcia as the man who broke into her house and killed her mother. She said he was still in the house wearing a mask and wielding a knife.
With Bennett leaving the District Attorney's office and Mark Mastroianni taking over, it is unclear who will handle this case in the future.
Groundbreaking for new 'Chaug
In what State Sen. Gale Candaras called "a defining moment" for the towns of Wilbraham and Hampden, state and local dignataries, including Congressman Richard Neal, State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Executive Director Katherine Craven, State Reps. Brian Ashe and Angelo Puppolo, school and town officials put shovels to the earth for the official groundbreaking of the new Minnechaug Regional High School on the morning of Sept. 3.
According to Cahill, this was the first groundbreaking ceremony for an MSBA supported school that was attended by a congressman.
"I want to congratulate the voters in these two towns for moving forward in difficult times," Congressman Neal said.
Wilbraham Parks and Rec. kicks off Spec Pond renovation
Members of the Wilbraham Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of Recreation (FOR) gathered on Nov. 18 to celebrate the groundbreaking of the first stages of work on the Spec Pond Recreational Complex.
Standing on what will be one of the three baseball and softball diamonds, Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Litz, along with FOR President Dave Clini and Chris Pinney, wife of the late FOR founder and first president Brad Pinney, took the time to thank local businesses and private parties alike for their generous donations
The project continued as scheduled, despite the fact Wilbraham was denied a Massachushetts Energy and Environmental Agency's (EEA) Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant.
Longmeadow passes bylaw amendment for solar array
Voters elected to pass two warrant articles at the Oct. 26 Special Town Meeting that clear the way for the construction of a large-scale solar array in town.
Article 11 of the warrant, which was an amendment to current zoning bylaws allowing agricultural land to be used for the purpose of a solar array, was passed by a majority vote.
The Planning Board voted to recommend the bylaw change, which includes language that would require the array be ground-mounted and that a building permit be obtained before development. It would also require a complete site and design review by the Planning Board and that the town not be responsible for the construction or demolition of the array.
In addition, Article 12 was passed unanimously, transferring $25,000 to properly close the old landfill on Bernie Road and prepare it as the site for a photovoltaic array. The town stopped using the landfill in the late 70s, according the warrant, but it was never properly closed. The funds appropriated will go toward the design and site work of closing it, as well as the engineering and site design for the new use of the land.
The town has begun accepting proposals for the array, which are due in to the office of the town procurement manager by Feb. 17.
Longmeadow residents say 'Yes' to new high school project
By a margin of 10 to 1, residents approved the Longmeadow High School building project at the Special Town Meeting on May 25.
A two-thirds vote was required to approve the project. The final numbers were 2,132 for, 211 against.
Voters filled the high school gymnasium, cafeteria and auditorium to the brink an additional 400 were seated in the Business Technology Center at the other end of the school.
The single warrant article for the meeting read in part "that the town appropriate the sum of . . . $78,452,888 for the costs associated with the construction of a 185,000 square foot addition to the Longmeadow High School located at 95 Grassy Gutter Road, and the renovation of the 1971 wing of the existing Longmeadow High School; provided that the renovation of the existing 1971 wing shall not be eligible for reimbursement by the MSBA [Massachusetts School Building Authority], which school facility shall have an anticipated useful life as an educational facility for the instruction of school children for at least 50 years."
The MSBA will be reimbursing the town $34 million for the new construction.
According to Assistant Town Clerk Jackie Sullivan, of the 6,522 voters who went to the polls 4,106 voted in favor of the new high school project, while 2,353 were opposed at the June elections.
Preliminary site work began the first week of November.
Doyle tapped as new Longmeadow Superintendent
Marie Doyle was selected by the School Committee as the best candidate to fill the position being vacated by current superintendent E. Jahn Hart, who is retiring at the end of the 2009-10 school year.
Serving as the superintendent of Carlisle Public Schools, which serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, since 2004, Doyle said she applied to become the head of the Longmeadow schools because it is an "outstanding system, it has a strategic plan, and Longmeadow is in a position to lead nationally with technology."
"As technology moves at lightning speed, it is crucial that our students not only possess strong literacy and math skills, but also develop strong critical thinking skills for research, problem solving and creativity," Doyle said of her educational philosophy. "Our future graduates need to be competent as innovators, problem solvers and global citizens as well as prepared in language, science, technology, math, engineering, finance, civics and media."
Under her watch, the Longmeadow school department and School Committee developed a Bullying Prevention and Interven-tion Plan, as required by new state law. She also presented a proposal to save the fifth-grade music program that was unanimously approved by the School Committee.
Springfield/16 Acres Neighborhood
ZCitywide, there were many important stories in 2010 the proposed biomass plant generated controversy, the race for district attorney was hotly contested, reuse of the former Federal Building by the city's school department came into question, the old Technical High School was selected as the site of a new statewide data center and the renovations to the State Street corridor were lauded.
Sarno talks new senior center, reelection bid at 16 Acres Civic Association meeting
Mayor Domenic Sarno came to talk, to listen and, apparently, to throw his hat into the ring for reelection when he visited the 16 Acres Civic Association meeting on Nov. 16.
"I don't take anything for granted, not that I would, but I am going to run for reelection," a shirtsleeved Sarno told Civic Association members during his city update, which highlighted such improvements as an uptick in the city's bond rating, a $44 million reserve in the city's budget, potential tax relief for homeowners and progress on addressing abandoned properties in neighborhoods. "If I can get that four - year term, I think it will give you a lot and we can really steamroll and get some things done.
"I'm still passionate [about my job]," Sarno added later in his remarks. "I haven't finished the job yet and, God willing, and with the will of the people, I can."
...In response to an attendee's question about the status of a freestanding senior center for their neighborhood, Sarno said the city was making progress.
"We think we have found a centralized location in the Blunt Park area, where we have Independence House, the park and the Putnam culinary program nearby," Sarno said, adding that he had been, so far, able to "free up some money to do a study."
Mayor Sarno unveiled plans for the city's new Senior Center, to be constructed on land at Blunt Park, the week of Dec. 13. A total of $11 million is needed for construction. The city is exploring funding options for the project, including fundraising by the city's seniors.
WNEC unveils new School of Pharmacy
It's the most ambitious building project the school has undertaken to date and it's slated to come in on time and under budget
On Oct. 19, Western New England College (WNEC) invited members of the media to tour its nearly completed Center for Sciences and Pharmacy, a state-of-the-art 'green' building that, at the beginning of classes next January, will be the home of the college's new School of Pharmacy, as well as classes in biology, chemistry, physics and psychology.
"The new building presents an opportunity for growth, for expansion for new lab facilities and new resources for a growing arts and sciences program," Evan Robinson, R.Ph, PhD, the new dean of the School of Pharmacy told Reminder Publications just prior to the start of the tour.
Director of Special Projects David Kruger said the building also represents a return to the college's original mission of preparing students for careers as pharmacists.
The building also represents an incorporation of technology to both enhance learning and minimize impact on the environment.
Design of the 126,000 square foot, four-story building began three years ago, when Kruger was dean of finance at the school. He said college President Dr. Anthony S. Caprio asked him to come back out of retirement to complete the project.
Though it is not a LEED (Leadership in Environment and Energy Design)-certified building, Kruger said the project was constructed following LEED guidelines, and incorporates many green technologies in its operating systems.
Among these technologies are the inclusion of seven separate heating and cooling systems for the building, low-E glass, motion-sensitive lighting in all areas to save electricity, low-flow fixtures in restrooms to cut water use, volatile organic chemical (VOC)-free paint on walls to reduce air pollution and the addition of solar panels on the building's roof to provide for the hot water needs of the building.
The School of Pharmacy hosted its official grand opening on Dec. 14.
New Aldi supermarket opens on Boston Road
The store wasn't open for business, but the line of people waiting to get into the new Aldi Supermarket on Boston Road stretched the length of the building and into the completely full parking lot.
Located at the corner of Pasco Road and Boston Road at the former site of the Abdow's restaurant, the new supermarket bucks the trend of the superstore. There are no in-store banks, pharmacies, bagging clerks, check cashing or photo processing to be found.
The Springfield store is the second one in the state and opened for business on Friday (Feb. 19) It was open on Thursday (Feb. 18) for a preview.
The Director of Operations for the market, Kenyatti Decker, said what consumers will find is high quality grocery items at low prices. Decker said the current 1,100 store chain has been operating stores in New York, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut and considers Massachusetts as a "key market."
Decker said the store will carry between 1,200 and 1,400 items, nearly all of which will be under their own house labels. He explained there will be special buys featured as well and if demand is sufficient, those items might be added as regular additions to the inventory.
The lack of frills keeps the overhead down, he said. The store's small staff ten full-time employees and several managers also keeps the operation affordable. The store doesn't have the long hours as do other supermarkets. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Besides grocery items the store also carries non-grocery items such as small appliances, auto accessories and shelving as special offers.
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