| Chris Goudreau
WILBRAHAM – At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to hire Laurie Kozak as the town’s full-time veterans’ service director, pending successful final contract negotiations with Town Administrator Nick Breault.
Kozak, a resident of Ludlow, said she served in the U.S. Navy from 1985 to 1995. She left the military after becoming disabled while serving.
“I love helping people and I love veterans so when this opportunity came I thought this was like the perfect fit for me because I’m really passionate about the military,” she noted. “My son [and stepson] are in [the military]. My family was all in. All my siblings were in. So we come from a huge military family. This is something an near and dear to my heart.”
Selectman Susan Bunnell asked Kozak during her interview with the board to provide a “plan of action” of her duties in town.
“My priorities would be getting familiar with whatever is going on currently, whatever claims are right now in the process, [and] whatever was kind of left behind,” Kozak responded.
She noted she would also focus on outreach to town veterans.
Board of Selectmen Chair Robert Boilard praised Kozak on her background and military experience.
He asked how she would balance “being a good steward of public funds” with serving veterans and their families.
“[I would be] realistic and I guess [not promise] too much and [give] false hope of the ability it would have to help some one,” Kozak noted.
In other business, the Board of Selectmen rejected the bids for the lease of senior center and Parks and Recreation Department space because they did not conform to the town’s guidelines.
Boilard later said the some bids did not include completed paperwork and others did not meet specialized needs of seniors.
He added the town plans to rewrite the Request for Proposals to include the needs of seniors in regards to a space.
The town received three bids, including two from the Scantic Valley YMCA, from which both departments currently lease. The YMCA submitted one bid for the senior center space and another for the Parks and Recreation Department. The third bid was submitted by the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, located at 20 Highland Ave.
The senior center and Recreation Department’s lease with the YMCA expired in October 2015 and the town has leased the spaces on a month-to-month basis. The town paid $90,000 annually to lease both spaces.
Four requests for proposals for leasing and purchasing space for the departments were published Dec. 16, 2015, requiring a minimum of 3,500 square feet for the senior center and 1,600 square feet for Parks and Recreation. The senior center is 3,840 square feet.
Director of Elder Affairs Paula Dubord said she agreed with the selectmen’s decision to reject the bids.
The Board of Selectmen also agreed to create a work group related to the Attorney General’s Abandon Housing Initiative program at its Feb. 22 meeting. The group is composed of Breault, Selectman Robert Russell, Health Inspector Lorri McCool, Building Inspector Lance Trevallion, and Fire Chief Francis Nothe or a designee of his choosing.
Breault said during the board’s Feb. 16 meeting the group would work to identify blighted properties in the community.
He added the Attorney General’s office would then use its powers to “affect the change that everybody wants.”