State budget could be impactful to hilltowns

Gov. Baker still has to decide whether to approve or veto the entire budget

Sen. Don Humason. (WNG File Photo)

SOUTHWICK, Mass (The Westfield News)  – It was announced earlier this week that the state’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget had been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The budget now awaits Governor Baker’s decision.

Senator Donald Humason Jr. (R) indicated that he had requested local program funding for the 11 cities and towns that he represents in the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District. There is a combined $500,000 of funds from Humason’s line items.

Although both the House and Senate have approved the budget, Gov. Baker still has to decide whether to approve or veto the entire budget or some of the line items included.

For Southwick, $50,000 would be going towards safety upgrades for their public schools which was welcome news as Southwick Town Officials have been working on improving safety in the schools.

“We have obviously been spearheading anything we could do as a community,” said Select Board Clerk Russ Fox. “Our concern as a community is the well-being of not just the students, but the staff as well.”

The Tolland DPW building was destroyed in a fire on Nov. 20, 2016. (WNG File Photo)

Southwick Police Chief David Ricardi explained the various training that the police and the school district have worked to implement into the buildings over the years. Besides doing active shooter training at the schools once or twice a year, Ricardi mentioned that he has recently jump-started a software program, called COPsync, that makes direct contact from each room in a school right to the police cruisers that are in the area. Ricardi presented this program to the school committee last year and is expecting it to be in effect in September.

School Resource Officer Mike Taggart described some of the upgrades that could be made with the $50,000 in funds, including new radios and “go-bags” for classrooms. The go-bags consist of a brightly-colored bag that would have a complete list of all children in that specific class, along with water, hygiene products, Band-Aids, etc. These are all items that could be important if an entire school has to evacuate the building for a certain reason.

Taggart also noted that each school office in the district would have a bag filled with megaphones and radios so they can communicate with staff during an evacuation.

These are all items that Taggart believes could make a major impact in the near future.

“It would be a huge step forward for us,” said Taggart.

Just minutes down the road, Tolland could see $100,000 earmarked for a DPW building since their last one was destroyed in a November 2016 fire.

Reported by the Westfield News on Nov. 21, 2016, the total cost to the town as a result of the fire was estimated to be near $2 million in structure, vehicles and equipment.

While putting the state’s FY 2018 budget together, Humason saw a perfect opportunity to help his constituents by appropriating $100,000 towards a new DPW building. “Hopefully it will be helpful. They’re a great community.”

Despite Tolland DPW Director Ed Deming saying he is very happy to have heard the possibility of $100,000 going to the town, he declined to make an official comment until Gov. Baker makes his decision about the budget.

Copyright 2017 The Westfield News