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School Street Park

Usually when I make statements pertaining to the Agawam Community Preservation Committee, I speak as the committee's vice-chair. This time, however, I am making comments as an individual. Though many elected and appointed officials may agree with me, the following are my thoughts and opinions.

The Agawam CPA has done an admirable job in overseeing and distributing the taxpayer's money. We have done so responsibly and without regard for political agendas and with the absence of wasteful spending. Even though an elected official or two has tried to use the CPA for their own political gain, we have endeavored to insure that the people's money is not used inappropriately. McGrath Park is a good example of the CPA preventing such an abuse. In that case, the CPA working with the Beautification Committee leadership, was able to prevent an abusive personal agenda and financially wasteful fiasco. As a result, a beautiful park was created at minimal cost despite sneaky politics.

Later this month, another inappropriate abuse of power is being scheduled to take place. It is the proposed premature dedication of the School Street Park. Never has a project in Agawam been dedicated long before its completion. In this case, it is being done so an elected official, who had nothing to do with the conception, planning, design, or funding of the park, can insure that his name goes on the dedication plaque. It is reminiscent of Agawam's Public Library when the same person, who had nothing to do with the library project, took unearned credit for it and didn't even invite the person most responsible for the library's construction. Now this same person has chosen to do the opposite by having an untimely dedication for personal reasons. How can we be dedicating a far from completed park project without any thought or input from the community or those most responsible for the parks creation? Hopefully, before such proposed action occurs, the appropriate thing will be done. That is for the person to be asked to attend and be included in a proper dedication upon the park's completion.

He, along with the Parks Director, seems to continually forget that the park, among other projects, would not exist without the recommendation and funding from the CPA and the agreement of the City Council. It is these two groups, representing the entire community, that are responsible for this park's existence as well as all projects funded solely through the CPA. Granted, Agawam's Parks Director, along with the CPA, is to be given credit for the planning and development of the park, but nothing using CPA funding gets done without our CPA committee's recommendation and council approval.

Agawam is entering into a new and changing era with new leadership and, hopefully, new ideas. As part of the change, I feel that a long allowed lack of honesty and lack of responsibility by some of our leaders must also change. Few citizens are aware of what goes on or has gone on in our local government. For the sake of political expediency, we have been told things that are not or are proving not to be true. Unfortunately the adage that "no one cares as long as the streets are plowed and the garbage is picked up" is true. There is more to having honest and efficient government than plowing streets and picking up garbage. Too much has been hidden for too long until recently when some of the several incidents of poor judgement or incompetent personal agendas have begun to be exposed. It is time for a new beginning and we should begin by doing what is right for everyone in Agawam. The School Street Park is the people's park and not an ego trip for one or two individuals.

Louis J. Russo