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Agawam elections underway

By Katelyn Gendron-List

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM The nomination papers are finally in, and the list of candidates for mayor, City Council and School Committee for this year's elections have been officially released by the Agawam Town Hall.

Richard Cohen, current mayor of Agawam since 2000, is seeking reelection for his fifth term in office. The only other candidate for mayor, Susan R. Dawson, former School Committee member is striving to gain her first mayoral seat in this year's election.

"I take all elections very seriously, as I do my job," Cohen said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "I will continue to work hard and hope that the voters will look favorably on my past accomplishments and will continue to allow me to work for them."

Cohen stated that his major goals are to continue the financial security of Agawam in addition to its furthered growth and economic development.

Specifically Cohen said that he wants to focus his efforts on several projects such as the completion of the 50-acre park on School Street and River Road, as well as the construction of a new Senior Center on Main Street.

Cohen also stated that he will be bringing a new ordinance to the City Council in November or December to begin Phase I of the Sewer Project in the southwest area of Feeding Hills.

According to Cohen, this is a project that has been talked about since the late 1960s. The project calls for a new sewer system to be built for the 900 residents in this area of Feeding Hills that have failing septic tanks.

Not only is Cohen striving to see such large-scale projects completed but he also said that he wants to continue to fund Agawam's schools as well as the Police and Fire Departments so that they may have "the best equipment possible."

"I am proud to be Agawam's mayor," he said. "I will continue to work hard for all of our residents, to maintain high quality standards of living and keeping Agawam a great place to live, work and learn."

However, Dawson, School Committee member from January 2000 December 2003, stated that she believes that Agawam needs a change.

When asked why she is not running for School Committee again as she had in 2003 and 2005, she said that she "believes the issues are bigger than that and the community needs to be brought together."

"My motivations to run for School Committee were personal, as well as my motivations to run for mayor," Dawson said.

She added that her motivations stem from her three teenage children, the oldest of which is physically handicapped, as she has been striving to make the school systems better for those with disabilities.

Dawson's thirst for educational issues became evident not only while she was a member of the School Committee but as she strove to obtain her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Bay Path College as a single parent.

"I have a lot of things that have been stacked against me as far as trying to win at life," Dawson said.

When asked about what changes she would make as mayor, Dawson stated she does not believe that Agawam is progressing, as long-term and short-term goals need to be set for its development.

Dawson stated that she would start by looking at the zoning on Springfield Street to resolve the "residential, commercial and agricultural zoning issues that occur there."

She would also like to look at the proposed new Senior Center, as it is "a hot issue in town." Dawson stated that the proposed $6 million bond will ultimately raise taxes in a city that does not even have a Boys & Girls Club.

"[Seniors] deserve a place where they can go and be comfortable and enjoy themselves, but in our town we don't have anything for kids to do in their off hours," Dawson said. "We need to take a bigger look and consider a community center where seniors have their spot, and a place where we can function as a community."

Dawson added that she would like to look at the model on Boston Road in Wilbraham.

Given her past experience Dawson said that she is most excited about the mayor's seat on the School Committee. While she stated that she believes the schools in Agawam are in "good shape" there are "new innovations that don't require additional monies but the collaboration between teachers and the administration."

Voting for the mayoral elections as well as for the City Councilors and School Committee members will take place on Nov. 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in all eight precincts in Agawam.

There are 16 candidates for City Council for this year's election including Donald M. Rheault, George Bitzas, Ruth Carr Bitzas, Robert Magovern, Dennis Perry, Robert Rossi, Robert Young, Cecelia Calabrese, Gina Letellier, Joseph Mineo, Jill Simpson, Paul Cavallo, Jill Messick, Patricia A. Souder, Andrew E. Fondakowski and Donald Chartier.

Eight candidates are running for School Committee, including Anthony Bonavita, Shelley M. Borgatti-Reed, John T. Burns, John Cameron, Jr., John Cesan, Roberta Doering, Linda Galarneau and Diane Juzba.

For more information on voting locations and general information on this year's elections call the Agawam Town Clerk's Office at 786-0400 ext 215.