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Special Town Meeting in South Hadley to consider school, restaurant, park and town administrator search 

The session gets under way at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.

Voters will be asked to appropriate $28 million to replace Plains Elementary, the town’s oldest school, built in 1932.

The cost of the 63,000-square-foot new school, to be built on the 5.5-acre grounds of Plains Elementary at 267 Granby Road and a 4.5-acre portion of the abutting Black Stevens conservation area, is estimated at $28 million.

South Hadley has received a $15 million state grant to build the new school, nearly 63 percent of the cost.

The Select Board has called a townwide election for Feb. 26 to ask voters to exempt the cost of borrowing the town’s share of construction costs, $13 million, from the limits of Proposition 2½.

Doug Juhasz, general manager of the Ledges Golf Course, said Wednesday that voters will be asked to approve spending $134,000 to operate an in-house restaurant at the club. Last year, Frigo’s, a catering company in Springfield, ran the course’s Valley View Restaurant.

“They were not interested in pursuing a second contract,” Juhasz said. At a recent meeting of the Ad Hoc Golf Course Committee, with representatives from the Select Board and the appropriations and golf course committees, Juhasz said he made a successful pitch to run an in-house food operation, based on his experience running a golf course and food operation at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield, Conn.

The $134,245 would fund the restaurant from opening day in March until the town’s fiscal year ends on June 30, he said.

The financially plagued Ledges has been a drain on town finances. Juhasz took over as club manager last year and has reported an increase in revenues.

Voters will also be asked to accept a $400,000 state grant from the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities program to help finance an $800,000 makeover at Buttery Brook Park.

South Hadley has already received a $375,000 grant from the state Department of Recreation and Conservation. The remaining $25,000 would come from the Friends of Buttery Brook Park, according to the town’s recreation director, Andrew Rogers.

Rogers said the PARC funding is a “reimbursement grant.” “We have to spend the money before we can file for reimbursement,” he said. “This project will not cost the taxpayers any money.” Work is expected to begin July 1 and end June 30, 2014.

The Select Board wants to spend $13,500 to hire the Collins Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston to conduct a search for a new town administrator.

South Hadley is without a town administrator after Paul Beecher resigned in January 2012 when board members declined to renew his contract, which still had a year to go.

Jennifer Wolowicz, the town’s personnel and procurement officer, is acting town administrator.

Also on the agenda at tonight’s meeting is a proposal to use $89,000 formerly approved to repair the roof of the town-owned former Fibermark Building to finance the building’s demolition.

Town Planner Richard Harris said Wednesday that he has received a “ballpark estimate” of $75,000 to demolish the former textile building in South Hadley Falls.

Harris said voters will also be asked to allocate about $41,000 to assess the repair and maintenance needs of all town-owned property, including schools.

“We also want to know the estimated costs of not maintaining properties,” he said Wednesday. Harris said a list of priorities for repairs and maintenance will be developed from the survey.

Voters will also be asked to spend $29,000 for temporary staffing at Town Hall and $10,500 for Health Board clerical staffing.

Etta Walsh can be reached at ewalsh.gazette@gmail.com.

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