Hadley TM signs off on new ambulance service, Russell School study, new food truck rules

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-05-2023 11:34 AM

HADLEY — A new ambulance service run by the Fire Department will begin serving Hadley later this year, the first time the town will have municipally operated medical care.

A used ambulance acquired from Northampton for $20,000 can start rolling after voters at annual Town Meeting Thursday approved the transfer of $402,307 in free cash to cover initial start-up costs.

That spending was one of 22 articles that took voters, gathered in the Hopkins Academy cafetorium, less than two hours to complete, without any debate or questions about the $20.46 million budget for town and school operations. The budget balanced with $850,000 in free cash, passed unanimously, and preserves existing services, while enhancing some municipal staffing, including adding a custodian and an assistant for various permitting boards.

The session also approved a new bylaw that formally allows food trucks to be regulated by the Select Board and Board of Health and money for a feasibility study related to the 1894 Russell School building in town center.

Select Board member Molly Keegan said the free cash for the ambulance, combined with future ambulance receipts in a dedicated account, are the seed money to execute a plan for a town ambulance that will initially supplement the private Action EMS.

“We’ve been very pleased with their service,” Keegan said, noting that this has sliced in half the response time previously offered by the town of Amherst. “The plan was always to build out ambulance service in town.”

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Fire Chief Mike Spanknebel said he will use a phased approach in getting the ambulance that will become Hadley AI ambulance and offer Basic Life Service with the department’s paramedics and EMS staff. “Basically, we’re ready to go, and just waiting for the state to come out and inspect it,” Spanknebel said.

It is expected to cover the 100 to 150 missed secondary calls by Action Med 1, which will remain the primary and offer Advanced Life Support. The town is expected to bring in $750 per call from medical reimbursements that will go into a special revenue account.

Spanknebel and Assistant Fire Chief Evan Briant used the opportunity to outline the work they do as a department and the challenges and opportunities, though after several minutes this prompted a voter to call the question, ending their presentation.

“Mike, they shut you down, but they gave you what you wanted,” Moderator Kirk Whatley said. After the vote, Spankenebel, who moved to the back of the cafetorium, was greeted by several residents with congratulations.

Russell School study

One of the few points of debate was the $40,000 in Community Preservation Act money going toward the Russell School feasibility study, approved by a 140-10 vote. Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan said this will help define what can happen and is preferable to immediately investing $1.2 million, as the Russell School Building Committee had requested and the CPA Committee had earlier supported.

“The Select Board was very concerned about the cost of stabilization,” Brennan said.

Edwin Matuszko of Stockbridge Street said he would be voting against the smaller amount. “There’s a faction in this town that just wants to tear things down,” Matuszko said. “This is just wrong, this is just so wrong. I hope this article gets defeated tonight.”

That was countered by Dan Regish, a member of the Russell School Building Committee, who was disappointed but observed that this was the best that could be hoped for.

Diana West, who chairs the Historical Commission, also supported the feasibility study, but offered a caution. “We need to do more, otherwise this will be a pile of bricks,” West said.

The discussion led to a light moment when Michael Sarsynski of East Commons Drive recalled going to that school between September 1960 and June 1963.

“To put that into perspective, no one had yet heard of The Beatles. The Twist was the dance craze. Joe Zgrodnik was still in dental school,” Sarsynski said, referencing the longtime Amherst and Northampton orthodontist and colleague on the Planning Board. “It’s a long time ago, a long time ago. The place was in rough shape back then, and it’s obviously in rougher shape now.”

Other CPA spending approved included $18,000 to preserve samplers made in the 18th and 19th centuries, $20,700 to develop a management plan for Lake Warner and $15,000 for Historical Commission projects, including historical signs, an updated walking tour of West Street common and an audio driving tour.

Food truck regulations

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said the food truck bylaw allows the town to define them and restrict them from the residential areas between Rocky Hill and Mount Warner road. Town bylaws have not been previously allowed food trucks at all, though regularly they were permitted for events like the Asparagus Festival on the West Street common and the flea market on Route 47.

There was no debate on the bylaw before it passed.

Recognitions

The evening began with the dedication of the Annual Town report to Adolph “Duff” Pipczynski, the former police chief and school bus driver who died last year, and Shelly and Joe Boisvert, who run the North Hadley Sugar Shack, as well as the awarding of the Fred W. Oakley Award for service to the town to Alan and Rosalie Weinberg.

The Pipczynski dedication page shows a photograph of him from the 1970s sitting at the wheel of a police cruiser, accompanied by a narrative. “Duff was known for his love of polka and would also let Hadley Media know if there was a problem with the polka program.”

For the Pipczynski family, the honor for the man who just about everyone in town knew was a long time in coming.

“I’m so happy, just so ecstatic,” said Jane Szelewicki, his daughter, who was joined by her brother, Dennis, and her daughter, Jamie, in accepting the dedication. “I told him I would get this (recognition) for him.”

Jamie Szelewicki said the dedication “puts the cherry on top” of a life well lived by her grandfather. “He was involved in everyone’s life, even if they didn’t always know it,” she said.

There was also a pinning ceremony for several firefighters, joined by their families, and recognition for Henry Baj, the state’s telecommunicator of the year who has done emergency dispatching for the town since 1976. Police Chief Michael Mason and Spanknebel gave him a restaurant gift card in appreciation.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>