Year in Review: The stories that headlined Southwick

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – New Year’s Eve marks a day where some people will be busy preparing food or travelling to their planned destination for the evening festivities.

When the night is well and over and the calendar year turns to 2017, there will certainly be a fair share of people with the classic New Year’s resolutions.

In light of all that, the start of a brand new year will also give people time to think back on what were the most memorable moments of 2016.

Although there have been copious amounts of important headlines nationally, stories happen everywhere; in everyone’s community that they live in.

For those that call the town of Southwick home, a number of stories have made headlines. Here are just a small handful of those stories in town that need to be highlighted in the Westfield News’ Year In Review.

School Feasibility study for Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District

After the school committee hired NESDEC (New England School Development Council) to conduct a school feasibility study on the entire district in the summer of 2016, NESDEC compiled a full presentation of what they found.

In essence, John Kennedy, a consultant of NESDEC, compiled two options for the future of the Granville Village School. Option I would mean the school would close and those students would have to attend school in Southwick. Option II is the school would stay put and there would be no change to the building.

The options brought forth by NESDEC not only led to the school committee and the district thinking about the overall study, it also gave the community of Granville the ability to speak out on the two options during a Nov. 29, a public forum that was held at the Southwick Regional High School.

Meg Putnam, a Granville resident, gave her thoughts at the forum.

“The students of Granville didn’t choose to live in Granville, their families did,” said Putnam.

Jean Reopel, a teacher at the Southwick Regional High School, talked about what she prefers for class sizes as a teacher in the district.

“The student’s needs have changed,” said Reopel. “I need fewer kids in the classroom, I need to teach every student.”

Supporters of the Granville Village School came together on Dec. 5, right outside the school district building when the school committee was holding their meeting.

The key dates for this issue are coming up, including the next school committee meeting on Jan. 10 at the Southwick Regional High School at 6 p.m. when Superintendent Jen Willard will be showing the community what the district’s education will look like with both options.

North Pond preservation

North-Pond-people
From left to right: Bill Asselin, John Whalley, Dennis Clark, Mary Lynn Sabourin, Seth Kellogg, and Rosemary Arnold have all contributed with the Conserve North Pond project. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Several residents in town came together early last summer and were adamant on helping preserve the North Pond section of Congamond Lake.

A 144-acre property, appraised at about $5 million, the supporters of North Pond now have less than a year to raise the $5 million in order to preserve the land.

In effort to raise the money, a number of fundraisers have taken place including a golf tournament, an event at the Westfield River Brewery, and 2017 North Pond calendars for sale.

Businesses and people are also able to donate towards the effort and, in turn, can have their business or name noted in the Westfield News.

More recently, on Nov. 28, North Pond received a land grant from the state that totaled $1.4 million. This was a major announcement for the community and a big lift towards raising the money, but there is still plenty of work left to do.

Drought issue this summer

Extremely dry conditions have plagued the communities of Western Massachusetts this past year. While certain counties throughout the state had more severe drought conditions than others, a town like Southwick had to deal with the situation as well.

Gardens, farms, and golf courses were all affected by the drought, but every resident was also affected by the drought.

Just after July 1 the town implemented mandatory water restriction. It meant that residents would only be able to use their outdoor water once a week, before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

Weeks after the ban started, DPW Director Randy Brown reported that from July 7 thru July 16, the community used under 1 million gallons per day.

It was a big improvement and showed that the high majority of residents obeyed the mandatory water ban. The low numbers led to the water ban being lifted in early October.

DPW gets new salt shed

Southwick Select Board members, Sen. Don Humason, Rep. Nick Boldyga, and DPW Director Randy Brown all had their shovels out to mark the official announcement of the new salt shed right behind the DPW. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)
Southwick Select Board members, Sen. Don Humason, Rep. Nick Boldyga, and DPW Director Randy Brown all had their shovels out to mark the official announcement of the new salt shed right behind the DPW. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

A groundbreaking event took place at the DPW headquarters on Sept. 7, to officially announce that a new salt shed was being built for the DPW.

It was great news, especially for DPW Randy Brown, as the previous shed was past its prime and talk of a new one was long overdue.

“This is a long time in the making,” said Brown at the groundbreaking event. “I have papers and records in the office going back to the mid 1980’s talking about a need for a new salt shed.”

Rep. Boldyga and Sen. Humason were both in attendance as they made a strong effort with the state to help get $450,000 to fund the new salt shed.

“It’s actually very rewarding when you can do something for a town like Southwick,” said Sen. Humason.

The new salt shed is 80 by 100 ft. in size and can hold up to 3,000 tons of salt which is good for a whole year’s worth of storms.

So far the salt shed has been put to good use and will continue to do so if snow and other winter storms continue to hit the area.

Jen Willard hired as the Superintendent of Schools

Superintendent Jen Willard gives her thoughts on Commissioner Chester's weekly update on December 16. (WNG File Photo)
Superintendent Jen Willard gives her thoughts on Commissioner Chester’s weekly update on December 16. (WNG File Photo)

In April, Jen Willard was hired by the school district as the new superintendent of schools. Previously, Willard was the Human Resources Director for Westfield Public Schools.

As the former Superintendent of the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District, Dr. John Barry, was set to retire June 30th, Willard would spend the summer of 2016 getting acclimated with her new colleagues and district.

When talking to Willard back in June about her latest position, she was awfully excited to start her duties in Southwick.

“It’s that same excitement of all the possibilities and all the dreams,” said Willard. “It reenergizes you as to why we got into education in the first place.”

Months after Willard settled herself in as the superintendent of schools, the Southwick Regional High School was honored on Oct. 28 as a part of a dedication ceremony. The new high school broke ground on Sept. 12, 2013.

A number of town officials and staff of the school were on hand for the ceremony to reflect on the accomplishment. Dr. Barry was very instrumental in the effort and wished the current individuals in the district good luck in the future for the school.

“This is now a secondary school for all three communities and it will be for the foreseeable future,” said Barry. “I wish you all the best.”

The regional high school formed in large part to the regionalization of the school district. In 2011, a proposal for a new district was presented to the towns of Southwick, Tolland, and Granville.

A vote was made in January of 2012, and the communities of Granville and Tolland both voted yes on the regionalization, while Southwick voted no. But, then the regionalization was approved when Southwick voted in May of 2012 and the regionalization became official.

The Year in Review will continue as Westfield News Reporter Dan Desrochers will have his Year in Review for the city of Westfield in Tuesday’s paper.

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