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Director says visioning process discovers what people want from WPA

Date: 11/2/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM -- The people have spoken: they want streaming video and they want it on demand.

These were the most common interests among those surveyed by Caroline Cunningham, director of Wilbraham Public Access (WPA), in a visioning process earlier this year.

The visioning work came about after Selectman Patrick Brady asked Cunningham and WPA's volunteers to find the best public access station in Western Massachusetts, and then become it, according to Cunningham.

"We wanted to do what the community wanted, not just be what was deemed best in the state," she added.

Cunningham described the visioning process as a project that will try to touch base with everyone in the community. The last visioning process took place in 1999, and Cunningham said she hopes this most recent one will last WPA for five to 10 years.

"Because this is visioning, it means we won't be able to do everything people want right now," she explained. "I'm the only staff member; it's me and volunteers. We need either more funds or another staff member to make more things happen."

Dr. Donna Scanlon, assistant superintendent of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District, took part in the visioning process. "Many topics came up [during the visioning] that I hadn't really considered before, like how the schools could contribute and benefit from local public access programming," she said.

"We'll definitely be starting a dialogue with WPA," Scanlon continued. "There's a lot of potential for our community being very accessible, with a lot of people involved in its programs."

Scanlon said she knows of several students at Minnechaug Regional High School who volunteer with WPA, but the school itself doesn't have a professional connection with the station yet.

"I'm not on the School Building Committee, but in the future, I see [WPA] being a part of the new school," she said.

Cunningham, who was still compiling the results from the visioning process when interviewed by Reminder Publications, will present the results to the Public Access Cable TV Committee at its meeting on Nov. 16 and then will present her findings to the Board of Selectmen.