Almost unanimous approval at Special Town Meeting

SOUTHWICK – Voters approved all five articles on a Special Town Meeting warrant Tuesday.
Aside from one audible “no” vote on an article concerning wells at Whalley Park, the articles passed unanimously.
The Parks and Recreation Commission requested a $50,000 appropriation and transfer for three irrigation wells at Whalley Park.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Joseph Deedy said the installation of the wells would greatly reduce the park’s water bill.
“When we took over the park, it had a huge water bill that came with it,” said Deedy.
The water budget now is $25,000. Deedy said with the wells, the water budget would drop to about $5,000 for the water used in the park’s restrooms.
The audience in the auditorium at the Southwick Regional School was sparse, but voters voiced their approval for an appropriation of $48,000 for a fire sprinkler system for the Southwick Public Library.
Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart said the funds were in addition to funds approved at the 2015 Annual Town Meeting for the system.
“The bids came in over budget,” said Stinehart. “The bids are at $115,000-$135,000.”
One resident was concerned with the amount.
“That seems like an awful lot for a library that’s less than 20 years old,” she said.
Stinehart said the system failed and the cost included engineering and pipe replacement.
A request to petition the state for a Special Act to extend the contract of Police Chief David A. Ricardi beyond his mandatory retirement age was also approved.
Ricardi turns 65 this September and according to Massachusetts law, must retire unless a Special Act is approved.
Selectman Russell Fox said this Act allows Ricardi to work for an additional two years, extending his contract through June 30, 2018, and allowing the town to extend again until he turns 67 in September, 2018.
“The Board of Selectmen believes this is important for the town because we have a new fire chief coming in,” said Fox. “And David wanted to stay on a couple more years and we are grateful.”
Resident Roger Cataldo, a former police officer who also had a Special Act approved to continue working past age 65, noted that it took the state a year to approve his extension.
Town Counsel Benjamin Coyle said he would inform the legislature that the act must be approved quickly.
Also approved was an article authorizing the Board of Selectmen to acquire land parcels or rights in land parcels to obtain a secure public right of way, and an article to transfer $10,485 for salaries.

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