All articles pass in Southwick’s town meetings

Jean Reopel at the Southwick outdoor Special and Annual Town Meeting June 16, 2020. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

SOUTHWICK – Voters passed all 19 warrant articles June 16 during the Southwick Annual Town Meeting, including the $14.6 million town budget and $11.6 million regional school budget.

They also approved all three Special Town Meeting articles in a 10-minute meeting hosted right before the Annual Meeting. The articles were all free cash transfers, including $58,548 for salaries, snow and ice removal at $130,000 and $20,000 for Other Post Employee Benefits.

Both meetings took place outdoors in the Southwick Regional School parking lot due to COVID-19. Chairs were spaced 6-feet apart and masks were worn by officials and participants.

All articles passed with little discussion.

Conservation Commission Chair Christopher Pratt spoke to Article 8, which was to establish a new revolving fund entitled Local Wetland Application Revolving Fund. Pratt said this would simply allow the Commission to keep any fees it collects.

Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School Superintendent Jennifer Willard speaks to the school budget during the Annual Town Meeting June 16, 2020. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

“We’re asking that we are able to keep the funds we bring in,” Pratt said. “We’re asking to keep the fees and put them in a revolving account.”

Any fees collected now go into the town’s general fund.

A question was raised on the town budget regarding an increase in wages. Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart noted that the town has five additional collective bargaining units and it must set funds aside for that purpose.

Burt Hanson asked about a decrease in the Department of Public Works’ stormwater line item. Public Works Director Randy Brown said the number reflects the cost of the stormwater program with the state and said he had hoped for more money.

“I did ask for more money, but this is what we’re getting,” he said.

The East Lot at Southwick Regional School set up for Town Meeting June 16, 2020. (KEVIN BISHOP PHOTO)

There were a few questions regarding the school budget, including concerns about selling and leasing buses now that transportation will be outsourced. Schools Business Manager Stephen Presnal said the department has sold and leased buses and the money would go toward the assessment. He also spoke to the school equivalent of free cash, which was helping offset the budget.

Southwick-Tolland-Regional Schools Superintendent Jennifer Willard explained that the budget presented at Town Meeting reflected a second round of cuts following a request by the Southwick Select Board and the coronavirus pandemic.

Michelle and Chris Pratt, at left, pick up paperwork at the Southwick Special and Annual Town Meetings June 16, 2020. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

“It is $113,000 over last year, which is less than a 1 percent increase,” said Willard, adding that if state taxes come in less than projected the school department and school committee would revisit the budget once again.

“We’re in this together,” she said.

Other articles passed included one appropriating $1 million to pay costs of roadway reconstruction, the appropriation of the sum of $1,1 million to pay costs of replacing the roof and making masonry repairs at the Southwick Fire Station and to transfer the sum of $2,500 from the Community Preservation Act Open Space Fund to the Southwick Agricultural Commission in order purchase six Right to Farm signs to be installed on major roadways in Southwick.


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