By Chris Maza
WILBRAHAM – Wilbraham Police Sgt. Shawn Baldwin was recently recognized for his service to the community with the Western Massachusetts ASIS Law Enforcement Award.
Baldwin was joined by Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchett as the only two Western Massachusetts law enforcement officers to receive the honor.
Baldwin was just recently promoted to the rank of sergeant on Aug. 5, 2013 by the Board of Selectmen.
“An international security company known as ASIS annually recognizes law enforcement officers,” Police Chief Roger Tucker told the Board of Selectmen at its March 3 meeting. “Because of his activities as a department investigator and court liaison, Palmer District Court contacted us and wanted us to submit his name for recognition from this company.”
The Western Massachusetts ASIS Chapter 212, hosted an awards ceremony last week at the Springfield Sheraton, which Tucker said was attended by a host of law enforcement personnel as well as representatives from private companies with which public safety departments work.
“It was nice to see the recognition and on his side, I know his family enjoyed being able to attend and see what dad does while they’re sleeping,” he said.
Former Selectman Patrick Brady also spoke to the board about appointing a member to the entity involved in the oversight of Fountain Park.
The park, which is owned by the Wilbraham Nature and Cultural Center Inc., reserves a spot on its board for a member of the Board of Selectmen, he explained. During his time on the Board of Selectmen, he fulfilled the responsibilities of its liaison and continued to serve in that capacity after he left office, however, he can no longer do so.
“I’m told that as the president and officer, I can no longer continue to be your liaison,” he said. “We’ll leave it to you whether one of the selectmen wants to actively serve on the board or give us the name of the liaison who is willing to serve.”
He added that the Wilbraham Nature and Cultural Center was in the midst of a major renovation of the red barn situated on the property for which they are seeking additional monies and hoped the selectmen would support the endeavor.
The town approved the Community Preservation Committee’s recommendation of a $110,000 allocation to improve the exterior of the building, but Brady said a $291,500 renovation of the interior was being undertaken.
“Everybody jumps back when they hear that big number, but you have to remember that it’s a very, very big building; it’s three stories high and it needs a lot of work,” he said, explaining the building needs a restroom compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations that would require a septic system, a new HVAC system and insulation. It would also be finished with tongue and groove paneling.
Brady said a request was made to the Community Preservation Committee for $209,000 for the project, which was approved.
“The next step is to take it to Town Meeting, but one of the things we’d like to do is meet with the selectmen, explain the project to you and answer any questions you might have about its worthiness and its contribution to the town and then ask for your nod of approval on it,” he said.
The barn, he said, was regularly requested for rentals, usually weddings and engagement parties and the like throughout the year, but because it is a seasonal facility without heat or insulation, it is only available for four months and a lack of adequate facilities also hampers things.
The rental of the facility would help pay for its upkeep, Brady explained.
“We plan to rent it at a nominal fee to people who want to hold parties there,” he said. “That money would be used to create a new revenue stream to support the park. Right now the vast majority of support for the park comes from volunteer hours and in-kind services donated by local businesses.”
Eight volunteers logged 2,200 hours tending to the grounds last year, he noted.
Ultimately, he said the goal was to use the barn as a visual and performing arts center that local groups would have access to year-round.
Board of Selectman Chair James Thompson said the plan would keep with the spirit in which the park was first created and the board unanimously voted to support the project.