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Selectmen discuss budget cutbacks

By Jason Poole

Reminder Correspondent

HAMPDEN The Board of Selectmen held a discussion with Hampden residents about the upcoming closures of the Library and Senior Center, as well as budget cut backs at the Police and Recreation departments at Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting.

The Senior Center and Hampden Free Public Library are due to close on June 30 because of budget cut backs. Hampden residents voted down a proposition 2 1/2 override last month that would have brought in more tax revenue to keep both of the facilities open.

Hampden resident Patricia Ehlers, along with other members of the Hampden community, were on hand to discuss the closings and the potential options for re-opening both the Senior Center and library.

Ehlers is calling for a Special Town Meeting in the fall to discuss the possibility of another vote. The decision of a second election falls to the Board of Selectmen.

"I personally will not disenfranchise 1,000 voters who had a clear mandate," Selectman James D. Smith said.

Selectman Duane E. Mosier stated that 60 percent of the eligible voters turned out for the override election and voted overwhelmingly not to support it.

"I'm dissatisfied with a lot of election results, but I don't get to vote again," Smith added.

Ehlers believes that the Board of Selectmen and other town departments did not do enough to let residents know the consequences of voting down the override.

"Everybody that cared to pay attention at that time knew what was going on," Smith said. "I think we did everything prudent and possible to let people know."

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease, even if we have to wait another year for an election, everyone in town will know what's going on by then," Ehlers said.

When Ehlers said that this country was based on a system of appeals, Smith responded by saying any appeal to him on this issue would fall on deaf ears.

Selectman John D. Flynn said he believes that the state should be more involved with helping to support Hampden. He said that the state is currently running a surplus, but Hampden or any other town in western Massachusetts doesn't see any of that money.

The Selectmen also met with the Personnel Committee to discuss the search for a permanent police chief. The Board and the Committee agreed to limit the search to current members of the Police Department.

The Personnel Committee will put together minimum requirements for the job and begin the search, with a new chief to be named in no later than 90 days.

"I don't think there will be more than three people who meet that criteria," said Smith about the potential candidates within the Hampden Police Department.

It is the hope of the Board of Selectmen and the Personnel Committee that a smaller pool of candidates will allow them to find a qualified permanent police chief in the shortest amount of time possible.

Library Director Ellen Bump was at the meeting to explain to the Board the potential options for keeping the library certified. She said that if the library can be run with a budget that is 80 percent of the minimum requirement and only be open for 20 hours a week with minimum services, the library would still be accredited.

If the library closes down completely for a full year and re-opens next July, it would not receive certification until 2008.

After it closes its doors on June 30, at 6 p.m., there will be a rally in front of the town hall to celebrate the library.