Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Sapelli touts investments in infrastructure in annual speech

Date: 2/16/2022

AGAWAM – Mayor William Sapelli gave his annual State of the City address during the Agawam City Council meeting on Feb. 7.

Sapelli began by acknowledging the work put in by the town’s department heads, elected officials, boards and committee members. The work and volunteerism of these individuals, Sapelli said, is “greatly appreciated.”

Additionally, he recognized the parents of school students, residents and local businesses that have all worked together to remain “strong” and resilient” this past year.

Sapelli highlighted some significant issues addressed by the town along with sharing the grants they’ve received over the past year that will be put into place this coming fiscal year.


Economic development

Under the direction of Marc Strange, the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge reconstruction was completed last spring. Aside from its appearance, Sapelli said the bridge has made “tangible improvements to the traffic flow in and out of Agawam.”

He said he hopes the improved infrastructure on the Agawam side of the bridge will encourage business development in the area this year, including the Walnut Street Extension business zone.

He went on to say that construction will begin and continue on several housing developments, including new units to be added to the Villas at Pine Crossing, a 55-plus condominium community; construction of 40 market-rate condos at Pond View Hollow on Corey Street, next to School Street Park; along with the Nicole Terrace single-family development across from the Agawam Municipal Golf Course and next to the Polish American Club.

“That’s under construction as we speak,” Sapelli said.

H.P. Hood will be breaking ground on its expansion that includes retrofitting the existing building on Main Street and constructing a new accessory building, along with landscaping improvements.

Sapelli shared that the town’s stormwater master plan was completed in 2021, which evaluated and repaired the aging system.

“The town allocated all $8.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for priority infrastructure projects identified by the Master Plan,” he said. These projects are set to break ground in 2022.

The town has also completed an infrastructure study of the North Agawam area, funded by a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Sapelli said this will allow them to further use CDBG funds for construction of projects in 2022 and beyond.

“Permitting for phase I of the recreation development at the former Tuckahoe Farms property is in full swing,” Sapelli added. The town expects to break ground in spring 2022 on a roadway connecting Pine Street to the park facilities at the pond near the center of the property.

This phase will also repair and rebuild the dam at the pond, along with pursuing a construction grant fund to expand the walking, hiking and biking system on the property.

Sapelli said a 5 megawatt solar array, at the northwestern portion of the Tuckahoe parcel, recently went live.

“Payments [from] that array will be used to fund passive recreation development on Tuckahoe,” Sapelli said.


Public safety

“All public safety remained fully operational during the pandemic,” said Sapelli.

Under Police Chief Eric Gillis and Fire Chief Alan Sirois, both departments centralized their dispatch operations. This was an effort that “expedited” the dispatching process, allowing for faster response time, said Sapelli.

Several grants were awarded to the Police Department this past year, including a $21,000 road safety grant; $116,290 from the Massachusetts state 911 Department; $13,759 for training from this department; and a $50,000 grant for combating the opioid epidemic from Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Similarly, the Fire Department applied for and received several grants, including over $284,000 in federal and state grant funding. It also received $254,000 to replace 37 self-contained breathing apparatuses. The total grants received for fire equipment and supplies totaled $307,020. Sapelli noted that there is still $82,373 pending, as the town is still waiting to hear back about some grants.

“They also supported regional partners by applying for and receiving $5,995 in grant funds to support the Western Mass. Technical Rescue Team,” said Sapelli.

The Fire Department has ordered and is expecting to receive a replacement ambulance this year, for Station 2 in Feeding Hills.

Additionally, the Fire Department has “installed 116 free smoke detectors and 102 free carbon monoxide detectors in 75 residences,” 26 of which did not have working detectors, said Sapelli.

For another year, Agawam received a grant of $6,500 to purchase a portable, meteorological weather station and portable traffic signs. “Both will enhance the capability of the [Agawam Emergency Management Office] in responding and coping with emergencies in Agawam,” said Sapelli.

Agawam is one of just two communities in Western Mass. to be considered a “storm ready community” by the National Weather Service, Sapelli said.


Building maintenance

“Completion of building automation systems for our precise control of air quality and visibility into the systems” took place at the Agawam Public Library, Phelps School and Robinson Park School, said Sapelli.

HVAC systems were also upgraded and replaced throughout the town to maintain proper air quality and ensure a safe environment.

In the schools, Sapelli said new classroom ventilation units were installed and buildings were waterproofed.

The schools used pandemic-related federal grants to replace 20 unit ventilators and automation controls at Robinson Park School, along with the replacement of tile and asbestos removal for 29 classrooms at Roberta Doering School.

A major building maintenance issue in 2021 was the Agawam Public Library.

“From roof, to basement to walls,” Sapelli said, town workers have been addressing every part of the water and mold issue. He added that they “took advantage” of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to replace building chillers and automation, along with the cleaning and sanitation of HVAC systems. The library is on track to reopen in about a month’s time, he said.

“Other notable projects completed or awaiting construction are roof repairs to the school and town buildings, entire building gutting replacement at Granger School, Mass Save program for municipal LED lighting projects are awaiting start at Town Hall, Agawam Country Club, fire stations, police station, Building Maintenance, Head Start and senior center,” Sapelli said.


Other departments

With the help of state Sen. John Velis and state Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, the Agawam Senior Center received two Aramark grants for improvements in the amount of $50,000, along with a new vehicle for the transportation program of $75,000.

With a 99.6 percent return of nutrition services, Sapelli said the senior center is “on track to exceed” its pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. Similarly, transportation services returned to about 90 percent of what it was in 2019.

“The Agawam Health Department has partnered with Southwick and West Springfield to continue contact tracing protocols and to notify people of positive cases,” said Sapelli.

As COVID-19 guidelines are changing often, Sapelli said the Health Department has worked to provide residents with the most up-to-date information.

“The Health Department continues to push for people to get vaccinated, get their boosters and to stay home if they are sick, and to get tested to stem this pandemic.”

In 2022, Phase I of the North Street deep gutter culvert replacement project is set to be completed. The town is currently working towards a full repair on May Hollow, following the temporary repair that the state Department of Transportation performed a few years back.


Nuclear protest shelved

Council Vice President Cecilia Calabrese couldn’t convince her colleagues to sign on to “a resolution renouncing nuclear weapons proliferation and urging the United States to pull ‘back from the brink’ and prevent nuclear war.”

Nine councilors voted against the resolution, with only Calabrese in favor.
She explained that she brought this before the council after being approached by a group of individuals in town, along with receiving approval from Sapelli.

She said that in Massachusetts, cities and towns such as Springfield, Boston, Easthampton, Northampton, Somerville and Cambridge have already approved similar resolutions. She said taking a stand against nuclear proliferation is “not a Democrat issue, it’s not a Republican issue,” as there are former members of both parties who support it.

“The idea of trying to avoid nuclear war, I think, only benefits mankind as a whole, globally. You hear, ‘think globally, act locally’… it doesn’t get more global or local than this,” said Calabrese.

Councilor Robert Rossi said he “appreciates the compassion” shown by Calabrese and understands the importance of this issue, however, “at this point in time, I don’t believe the City Council should be entertaining this.”

Councilor Rosemary Sandlin echoed Rossi’s point.