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2013 in review: Area faces changes, challenges

Date: 1/3/2014

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM – Police Chief Robert Campbell will officially retire on Jan. 3, after more than 41 years in the force.

“It’s been a hell of a ride, better than any roller coaster I’ve been on,” Campbell said. “Some days move at the speed of light and others move at a snail’s pace.”

In a press release dated Dec. 30, 2014 Mayor Richard Cohen announced that Lt. Eric Gillis would succeed Campbell.

Cohen ran unopposed in the November 2013 election. He will serve his seventh term as mayor. Twenty-seven percent of voters turned out for the election.

Cohen cited his goals for the upcoming term as keeping taxes low, starting the Route 187 project and completing the second phase of the School Street Park project.

The town reached a Surrounding Community Agreement with MGM Springfield in December of last year.

Highlights of the agreement included $2.3 million in payment to be distributed among an initial payment of $125,000 upon securing the gaming license, an annual payment of $100,000 and $750,000 to be paid per the schedule of the agreement.

MGM will also pay for the town’s legal and consulting fees related to negotiating the agreement.

In November, MGM Springfield and Six Flags New England officially entered into a co-branding partnership of which the details have yet to be released. A total of $2.3 million would be awarded to Agawam over a period of years.

MGM Springfield submitted the second phase of its application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at the end of December 2013.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission denied the grant application for School Street Barn, halting the project indefinitely.

Efforts to restore the barn began in 2002. Early in 2013, the City Council approved $315,000 of Community Preservation Funds if the commission awarded the grant money to the project.

Without funding to reinforce its structure the barn will be subject to the elements and will continue to deteriorate.

Deborah Dachos, director of Planning and Community Development, will continue to work on the project and intends to again present it to the council and apply for the grant.

In July 2013, officials from the YMCA, in conjunction with Cohen, announced that a Y-Express would open at Agawam Towne Square on Springfield Street.

The location is considered a Y-Express because the site will not include a pool or basketball court. The 8,000 square-foot facility will however include a café and a technology center.

The location will feature a wellness center with cardiovascular equipment and free weights; studio space for dance classes or meetings; a child enrichment center where children can participate in activities while their parents use the facilities; and a member lounge where can congregate with each other.

Construction will begin Jan. 23 with a kick off celebration.

To celebrate renovations to the ranch, Crowley’s Sales Barn & Stables hosted an open house in early August 2013.

Upon return from their winter season in Florida, the Crowleys and their staff have made numerous changes to the property including relocated and updated facilities. For the first time in more than 20 years, its Route 75 entrance is open, providing a second entrance to the stables.

At the start of the year, Don Cameron, owner of Cameron Sports, announced that he had purchased the property and was going to open The Plex, an indoor/outdoor sports complex.

The complex would feature two grass 225-foot by 330-foot fields; two synthetic, 225-foot by 360-foot fields; a two-story, 15,000 square-foot building housing an equipment rental section, a small arcade, staff offices and more as some of the main features of the complex. He had hoped to break ground on the project by this April.

In response to the announcement, Alice Crowley, co-owner of the property announced that the entire parcel was not for sale. She re-iterated that the business was “relocating, restructuring and revamping” on its property.

She added that while the horse auctions would not continue, trail rides, private horse sales and other services such as riding lessons would still be offered.

In April 2013, the Zoning Board of Appeals confirmed that Camero’s application had been withdrawn.

The Agawam Dog Owners (ADOG) acquired the necessary funding to create an off-leash dog park this past year.

On Sept. 7, the Stanton Foundation awarded the Agawam Dog Owners Group (ADOG) a $245,000 grant. ADOG’s fundraising efforts resulted in $10,000 that the group will donate to the cause.

The Agawam City Council voted unanimously at its Oct. 21 meeting to appropriate $14,145 in Community Preservation Act funds for the creation of a dog park as a recreational use at Shea Field.

ADOG’s fundraising efforts resulted in $10,000 that the group will donate to the cause.

The groundbreaking is anticipated to take place in the spring of 2014.