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Hadley eyes shrinking Select Board to three members

— The Select Board could be reduced from five members to three if residents approve the idea at the annual Town Meeting in May.

The warrant article was proposed by Select Board member Daniel Dudkiewicz, who said a smaller board would be more efficient.

“For some reason, I don’t know why, we don’t seem to be moving ahead,” Dudkiewicz said when he introduced the article at a recent Select Board meeting. “If there’s three members on the board, you have no place to hide. You have to get out, get everything moving ahead.”

Town Meeting expanded the Select Board from three to five members in 2000.

Selectman Brian West said he voted to add Dudkiewicz’s proposal to the warrant because residents have suggested it to him as well. But while he thinks townspeople should be given the chance to discuss it at Town Meeting, he does not believe shrinking the board will make a significant difference.

“I think the people that talk about a three-person board over a five-person board are people who have been around a long time and are used to having a three-person board,” West said.

Hadley is the smallest town in Hampshire County with a five-member Select Board. Of the three towns in the county that are closest in size to Hadley, Hatfield and Granby have three-member select boards, while Southampton has a five-member select board.

Selectman David Moskin, who served his first term as one of the added selectman in 2001, said he thinks reducing the size of the board “would be a big step backwards,” because two people would be able to make decisions for the entire town.

Like Dudkiewicz, Moskin said that the board is not making enough progress on Hadley’s problems. He added, however, that when it functions well a five-member board is more productive than a three-member board. “The Select Board is a big problem right now, and having fewer of us is not going to fix the problem.”

Moskin, who is not running for re-election in the April town election, has said in the past that he has concerns with how the board runs.

For his part, West said that he believes that the board functions well.

“In the last few years we’ve made a lot more decisions,” he said.

When the board was increased at the special Town Meeting in the fall of 2000, supporters said that a larger board would represent the citizens better and prevent two board members from dominating the agenda.

The article will be voted on at the annual Town Meeting May 2. If it passes, one seat on the Select Board would be available each year in 2014, 2015 and 2016. If it remains a five-member board, only one seat will be up for election in 2014, but two will be up for election in 2015 and 2016.

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