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Future of D.A.R.E. position uncertain

By Levon Kinney

Staff Intern

WILBRAHAM The Wilbraham Board of Selectmen held a meeting on Sept. 16 to discuss several issues that are of importance to the community.

The biggest issue on the agenda was Officer Dennis Laplante retiring from the Wilbraham Police Department, where he is the D.A.R.E. officer for the schools in the town. After 13 years the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District is questioning which direction to go to keep with the current program that has expanded to fight violence and teach good decision-making, or implement a new plan that may or may not include the presence of police officers in the schools.

"Where would we be without D.A.R.E?" asked Selectman David Barry. Bringing the community together to prevent substance abuse was Laplante's main goal.

"To measure the success of this program is difficult," said Selectman Patrick Brady, claiming that police and schools only have "soft" numbers and can't produce any real evidence to support funding the position.

Dr. Paul Gagliarducci, superintendent of schools, expressed his support of the program.

"Wherever I have gone, D.A.R.E., has been successful because of the officer," he said, stressing the importance of the influence law enforcement has on young children.

The Board decided more time was needed to decide on the issue, allowing the School Committee until January to decide whether to keep the D.A.R.E. program going and find another police officer who can bring the community together as Laplante did, or adopt a new program.

The Finance Committee appointed several new members, including Dan Miles through 2007, Dan Goffner through 2008, Kim Lee through 2009, and Roger Fontaine through 2009.

The Board also discussed Grange Hall, one of the historic sites still standing on Main Street. The building is awaiting an appraisal, and the subject of price versus land use came under question. The building needs drastic renovations and most of the investors interested in the purchase are likely to demolish instead of preserve, according to Town Administrator William Fogarty.

The question of selecting a buyer who will preserve the building was brought up by the Board. It was decided, however, that getting the highest price and not preserving the building was in the towns' best interest.

Pines School, located on Stony Hill Road, is up for lease to any potential investors. Two unnamed investors have expressed interest, but only one is still interested.

A candidate for the Cable TV Advisory Board met with the Selectmen. Daniel Cochran, formerly of Sixteen Acres in Springfield and a member of their Civic Association, said he is interested in getting Wilbraham a fair deal with their cable service provider and understands the changes in technology that drive this industry.

It was announced that East Longmeadow would hold the next regional selectmen's meeting Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at the town's Fire Department, 120 Somers Road.