WILBRAHAM – It’s official – the Wilbraham Police Department will have a new home within the next year to year and a half.
Question 3 on the ballot for the May 16 Annual Town Election, which asked residents to approve a $4.2 million debt exclusion for the $8 million new police station project, was approved by a vote of 1,369 to 886. The project also received yes votes exceeding a 2/3 majority vote during the May 11 Town Meeting.
Police Chief Roger Tucker told Reminder Publications the timeline for the project is approximately 12 to 18 months. A groundbreaking is anticipated for this fall, likely October, pending successful bids come back to the town within the project’s budget.
If the groundbreaking is delayed until December, the project would likely start up in the spring instead, he added.
The new station will be located at 2780 Boston Road, nearby to the recently renovated fire station. Currently, the town has a pending agreement to purchase the site from owner Helen Moore.
Incumbent Board of Selectmen Chair and Republican Caucus nominee Robert Russell was reelected for a second three-year term on the board, defeating Democratic Caucus nominee Anna Levine by a vote of 1276 to 829.
Russell said the town “has a lot of challenges” in front of it in the near future.
“We still have to let the senior center feasibility study do its work,” he added. “We have a Bylaw Review Committee that’s hard at work updating our ancient bylaws. We have certainly budgetary concerns, especially as it relates to the schools, but I think one of the first things we’re going to do is look at some ways to make Town Meeting and Town Elections a little bit more user friendly in hopes of increasing turnout.”
Russell noted he is also looking forward to working with the Nick Breault, the town’s newly appointed town administrator, who previously served as East Longmeadow’s town administrator. This anticipated start date is June 1.
“He’s already met all the department heads and he’s going to be a good fit,” Russell added.
Republican Caucus nominee William Bontempi and incumbent independent candidate Michelle Emirzian defeated incumbent chair Marc Ducey, who ran as an independent following his departure from the Republican Town Committee, and Republican nominee James Burke. Bontempi received 1,023 votes and Emirzian obtained 997. Ducey and Burke captured 960 and 891 votes, respectively.
Bontempi said he would like to “hit the ground” with his “feet running” to address issues such as the district’s budgetary shortfall and decline in enrollment.
“One of the issues that I think we need to address is not only short -term, but long-term solutions in terms of what we do with fluctuating enrollment,” he added. “Wilbraham has a population of young people that follows the housing market. There’s no question about it.”
At one point, Mile Tree Elementary School was closed, Bontempi noted.
“So, obviously, there’s fluctuations and we’re coming off of one of the worst housing market recessions in history, which means that there are a lot of people holding onto their homes,” he added.
“At some point that housing market is going to rebound and when it does we will see seniors depart and we will see young people move back in,” he continued. “I’m a little concerned with this plan to adjust our school district to accommodate decline in enrollment without any discussion about rebounding enrollment.”
Bontempi said he disagrees with the application of Common Core because it is “untested” and because the Commonwealth’s educational standards in the past decade have been rated the best in the country.
“Massachusetts is inarguably the best in nation,” he added. “Using the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) as a yard stick, Massachusetts schools have dominated for 10 years. So, it would naturally beg the question – Why would you choose to obliterate or abandon the standards that have been in the state for something different? Wouldn’t you think that the model would be to follow what Massachusetts is doing to increase standards?”
Question 2, a nonbinding ballot question, asked residents if they “support the federal government’s Common Core standards and initiatives for K-12 education?” This question received 514 “yes” votes and 1,528 “no” votes. This question was a citizen petition by Jolene Guzzo.
Another issue that Bontempi addressed was a lack of full reimbursement the district receives for regional transportation, which is supposed to be fully funded and has not been during the past several years.
“The minute, we as a community, want to hold our legislatures accountable for receiving the money that is really due to us as a school district … and we can start getting serious about making that demand, I think that our budget woes will disappear,” he added.
Ducey, in a press release, said after his term ends he intends to “take time away from town issues” and to at some point look for opportunities to serve the community in the future.
“For the past decade I have served our town and schools for one reason – to better our community, and that remains my singular purpose,” Ducey said. “So while my tenure on the School Committee is coming to an end, I hope the new board will continue to support an environment within our schools where our children can excel, prosper, and leave us well prepared, and do so in a way that is cost effective and responsible to the taxpayer.”
Emirzian and Burke were not present at the Clerk’s office when the election results were read.
Incumbent Town Clerk and Democratic Caucus nominee Beverly Litchfield, who has been town clerk for 21 years, will remain in office after she decisively defeated challenger and Republican Caucus nominee Herta Dane by a vote of 1,502 to 594.
“I’m very pleased,” Litchfield said. “I absolutely love my job, so I’m very pleased that the voters came out and supported me again.”
Question 1, which asked residents to appoint a tree warden, was approved by a vote of 1,299 to 730.
Republican Caucus nominee David Graziano was elected tree warden for a three-year term, defeating his opponent Charles Rounds by a vote of 1,560 to 398.
Democratic Caucus nominee John McCloskey defeated incumbent Charles Pelouze, 1,034 to 831, for a one-year seat on the Planning Board.
Incumbent Housing Authority member Peter Manolakis, nominated by the Republican Caucus, defeated challenger and Democratic Caucus nominee Russell Mitchell by a vote of 1,273 to 689.
Incumbent Water Commissioner and Republican Caucus nominee James Dunbar was reelected for a three-year term by a vote of 1,278. His opponent, Democratic Caucus nominee Michael Rustin received 599 votes.
Three candidates ran for two three-year term positions as Library Trustees. Incumbent Republican Caucus nominee Raymond Burk was reelected and received 1,332 votes. Democratic Caucus nominee Lucy Pelland was also elected, by a slim margin over Democratic Caucus nominee Marjorie Williams. Pelland received 750 votes to Williams’ 746.
The list of officials elected in uncontested races included incumbent Town Moderator and Republican Caucus nominee George Reich for a three-year term, incumbent Assessor and Republican Caucus nominee Lawrence LaBarbera for a three-year term, incumbent Cemetery Commissioner and Republican Caucus nominee Donald Bourcier for a three-year term, as well as incumbent Planning Board member and Democratic Caucus nominee Tracey Plantier for a five-year term.
Litchfield said Michael Manteria received 11 votes as a write-in candidate for a one-year term as a Cemetery Commissioner.
The town contacted Manteria and as of May 18, he had not been sworn in to the position.