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Selectmen set election date, review Spec Pond plans

Date: 7/6/2010

July 5, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

WILBRAHAM -- At last Monday's meeting, Selectmen James Thompson and Patrick Brady took Town Clerk Beverly Litchfield's suggestion and voted to set the Special Election to fill the vacant seat on their board for Sept. 25.

The Special Election was made necessary when a recount of the May 22 Town Election vote between incumbent candidate James Brady and challenger Robert Boilard resulted in a tie.

At the board's request, Litchfield had explored several alternative dates for the election, including holding the Special Election concurrent with the state primary elections on Sept. 14.

Though Brady indicated the board had initially thought "it would be inconvenient for residents to go and vote two times in a short period of time," Litchfield said her analysis found the staffing, the cost and especially the potential for voter confusion when combining the two elections was too great.

If the two elections took place on the same day, she said, voters would need to check in twice -- once to vote for the primary candidates and a second time to vote in the Special Election.

Combining the two elections would require double the number of poll workers typically necessary to conduct an election. Litchfield said it takes 32 poll workers -- eight at each of the four precincts -- to run an election. At this time she has a pool of 40 people that she can draw from. Not all of those people can work the required 16-hour shift.

"I did put out a plea for poll workers and got about nine [responses]," Litchfield said.

In addition, the voting machines would need to be programmed to count the votes for each of the two separate elections, she added.

Thompson asked if there was the potential for irregularities in combining the elections.

"What happens if you have more people check in than ballots cast, or more ballots cast than the number of people who check in?" he asked.

Litchfield said either situation would be a cause to invalidate the election results.

"Though the natural thing was to combine the elections on the same day, the devil is in the details," Thompson said prior to voting for the Sept. 25 date. "The worst thing for us as a community would be to have another election with some glitch, some sort of irregularity."

* * *

In other business, the Selectmen also heard an update from Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Litz on the status of the Spec Pond Recreation Facility grant proposal to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Division of Conservation Services (DCS) 2011 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities Program (PARC).

According to the town Web site, the Spec Pond Recreational Facility is a 39.5-acre site located on Boston Road adjacent to the Wilbraham Parks and Recreation Office. In 2006, a master plan was conducted by Weston & Sampson Engineers, Inc., to guide the department through a growth period, which includes developing the currently unused 13.5 acres.

Litz said the proposal is approximately 70 percent complete, and includes these proposed improvements outlined by Weston & Sampson: adding a new softball field, walking trails and a dog park in the northeast corner; pavilion improvements; beach improvements -- including playground renovations and the creation of a spray park; handicapped-accessibility improvements, which include creating a playground for children of all abilities, making the pavilion and beach handicapped-accessible and creating a trail system through the park that allows people with disabilities to reach all playing fields; and burying all overhead utility lines.

The total cost of the Spec Pond renovations is $1.1 million.

Litz said the PARC grant would total $500,000. The town's match to complete the project is $350,000, from two previously approved Community Preservation Commission grants. The Friends of Recreation have already collected $20,000 toward the project through fundraising. C. W. Zimmer, assistant Parks and Recreation director, said the remaining $345,000 will come through a capital campaign.

Litz said townspeople are invited to a public hearing at the Senior Center, 45B Post Office Park, on July 8 to "look at what we have proposed" for the Spec Pond renovations. He will be looking for public comment and requesting that residents send letters of support to the DCS to help in the grant review process.

"It's critical to show there is public support for this project," Litz said.

He said letters of support should be addressed t to:Melisssa Cryan, EOEA 100 Cambridge St. Suite 900, Boston MA 02114, and marked RE: Wilbraham Park Application

The final grant application must be submitted to the DCS by July 18.