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Petition calls for reinstatement of Partridge

Date: 1/25/2013

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD — At the Jan. 22 meeting of the Town Council Michelle Serafino presented a petition with more than 125 signatures and a letter to Mayor Gregory Neffinger, in opposition to his decision to remove David Partridge from the Planning and Construction Committee (PCC).

Partridge's term as chair of the PCC expired Jan. 1 and the mayor chose to nominate Michael LaRiviere rather than reappoint Partridge. While Serafino is a member of the school committee, it was her own personal opinion she voiced during the Citizen Speak Out portion of the meeting.

In her letter, Serafino requested that Neffinger reconsider the reappointment of Partridge, a civil engineer, stating that his work experience and 12 years on the PCC makes him "uniquely qualified." She added that she was "concerned" and "troubled" by the mayor's decision.

"By deciding to let Dave Partridge's appointment expire, you are not fulfilling your responsibility to ensure that the PCC has a full complement of required members," she said.

"The citizens of West Springfield want to see professional discourse and problem solving when there is a disagreement in our government," Serafino added. She cited Section 3.3 of the town's charter where it states that members are to be chosen based upon "merit, fitness, competence and suitability," stating that Partridge meets those standards.

She stated that the people on the petition expressed feelings of "frustration, anxiety and disappointment" in regards to the mayor's lack of explanation for his removal of Partridge from the PCC.

"I love Dave Partridge," Neffinger said. "He's a likeable guy, he's a teddy bear, he's determined." The mayor cited philosophical differences as the reason for his decision. He explained that Partridge's vision for the town differs from his own.

Rich Sorcinelli, resident and owner of Sorcinelli Painting and Wallpapering, told Reminder Publications, "Just because someone's [Partridge] experienced, doesn't mean it's a good fit. People are upset that the mayor's making a change — the status quo is not what it was."

Sorcinelli offered a defense of the mayor by noting his tax bill had decreased. "It seemed [in past years] that the Town Council's only solution was to increase taxes. Neffinger promised to work on taxes — he's upholding every promise he made. It the first time citizens have had a break in a long time."

He added, "We've let the Town Council become a monster. The mayor's fighting against that."

Sorcinelli continued, equating the mayor's role to that of a head coach of a sports team whose star player isn't meeting expectations and has to bench the player. "He has to get the job done, which requires him to make the hard decisions."

The council will review the appointments of LaRiviere to the PCC and Frank Plange to the Planning Board at a special meeting on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.