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Editorial: Monday mix on Hadley votes; new HCC president; composting

  • Christina Royal, shown Nov. 2 on campus, is the fourth president and first woman to hold that job at Holyoke Community College. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO


Monday, November 13, 2017

We urge Hadley voters on Tuesday to significantly improve the community’s resources by approving money for a new senior center and library that would be built side-by-side at the former Hooker School site.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at Hopkins Academy, and voters will be asked to approve an added $1.8 million for the senior center and $3.8 million for the library. The latter would be added to a $3.9 million state grant and $300,000 in fundraising by the trustees.

The two-stage project calls for construction of the new senior center behind its current home in the Hooker building. When that is done, the school would be demolished and replaced by the new library.

Jane Nevinsmith, chairwoman of the senior center building committee, said it is seeking $1.8 million in addition to the $5.3 million already authorized to allow for a 12,000-square-foot building. “We could build it for less, but then it wouldn’t serve the town and would soon be obsolete,” she said.

Suzanne Travisano, director of the senior center, said it will continue to be a gathering place for many groups in Hadley, in addition to the town’s 1,800 seniors. Those using the center range from the Girl Scouts to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Building Commissioner Timothy Neyhart said it doesn’t make sense to spend any more money on repairs to Hooker, which has had problems with a leaky roof. A portion of the building is closed, including public access to an upper floor.

The need for a new library also is clear. Goodwin Memorial Library was built in 1902 at the corner of Route 9 and Middle Street. Much of the three-story, 4,500-square-foot building is inaccessible because it lacks an elevator.

Plans for the new 11,800-square-foot library call for a community meeting room, children’s room, young adult space, story garden, climate-controlled room for historic collections, and a room for Friends of the Library. There will also be space the expand the current 20,000-item collection.

The average tax bill is expected to increase by about $100 a year if both projects are approved, and that is an investment in the future well worth making by current Hadley voters.

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Christina Royal’s story is an inspiring one. She was the daughter of low-income parents, no one in her immediate family had graduated from college and she had no mentors to talk to her about higher education.

Nonetheless, Royal went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, and on Nov. 3 she was inaugurated as the fourth president of Holyoke Community College.

As the first woman to hold the job, Royal said she hopes to be a role model. “I feel fortunate, because I do have women come up to me and just thank me for being in this role. Representation matters, visibility matters.”

Royal, who lives in Northampton, said her upbringing also gives her an appreciation for the special mission of community colleges, especially one like HCC which has a racially and economically diverse student body. “You’ll be in class with a single mother, with an adult student, with someone serving in the military, with someone with a disability, and of course many other students that come from other places with other cultural experiences.”

We look forward to Royal’s leading HCC with compassion and forward-looking vision demonstrated by her commitment to address broad community issues including homelessness, food insecurity and the lack of transportation.

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A report last week in the Gazette pointed to a glaring deficiency in the region’s recycling efforts: there aren’t enough facilities to compost organic waste.

Amherst and Northampton are the only communities in Hampshire County to collect food waste at their recycling centers for composting, and that is sent to Martin’s Farm in Greenfield. That farm is authorized to process up to 105 tons of organic waste per week, and the six largest communities in Hampshire County alone produce about 147 tons per week, according to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton next year plans to reopen a composting facility that has not been used since 2004, and it is expected to process between 25 and 30 tons a week. That’s a start, but more is needed, and we urge environmental activists and local officials to work with regional planners to establish additional composting sites.