Splash pad makes waves at Southampton special Town Meeting

  • Southampton Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2021 7:00:38 AM

yBY EMILY THURLOW

SOUTHAMPTON — The future of Conant Park is looking pretty cool.

In a two-thirds majority vote, residents approved an article at Tuesday’s special town meeting that will kick off the process of designing and creating an ADA-compliant walking path and a cooling station with a low-flow splash pad at Conant Park. Twenty-two people voted the article down, according to the official tally.

Southampton was awarded a $100,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant for the project. However, in order to move forward with design and potential implementation, cost estimates for the project included an additional $92,500. With the approval of residents, the remaining funds of the project will now be supported by $86,500 in Community Preservation Act funds and $6,000 will come from Park Commission fundraising events. CPA funding can only be utilized for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation.

Nine people came forward to speak in favor of the article and two spoke out against it, noting multiple concerns they had, including Robert Kozub, who serves as a member of the Community Preservation Committee and the chairperson of the Historical Commission. Speaking as a member of the community, Kozub said that safety and sanitation and the town’s summertime water restrictions regarding the splash pad have not been adequately addressed.

“I feel that this kind of a project, if it is located at that particular area, and I understand it is not a given, will infringe on those activities that are available to a great number of people in the community, more so than perhaps, any other park activity with the exception of the sports activities,” said Kozub. “I think all of these things need to be considered.”

Those in favor of the article, like resident Dylan Mawdsley, noted that other area communities, including Easthampton, Amherst, Agawam, Northampton, South Hadley and Westfield, all have splash pads/spray parks that maintain water usage and do not have an attendant overseeing it.

“This is a chance to build and really beautify the centerpiece of our historic downtown,” Mawdsley said.

Resident Kaitlin Swistak-Rooks also advocated for both the splash pad and walking path. She said that despite living within walking distance of the park and having a young child, she doesn’t take advantage of the park because she feels the playground equipment is unsafe.

With the funding in place, the Park Commission will be able to address current challenges for the mobility-impaired, said Daniel LaValley, a member of the Park Commission. The walking path will connect with Route 10 on the north side of the park and is part of a larger phased approach to make all areas of Conant Park handicapped-accessible, he said.

The splash pad was listed as the number one reason people go to other towns to enjoy, according to an open spaced and recreation planning survey conducted by the town. LaValley also noted that the state scores applications higher that include cooling stations like a splash pad as part of proposals.

The first six months of the planning phase will include determining where the exact placement of the walking path will be between College Highway and the Conant Park East Street parking lot, and what material would be used, said LaValley. The exact location of the splash pad also will be determined during this process.

Money for FireDepartment, dump truck

The article that proposed raising the hourly wages for Southampton paramedics and EMTs as a way to aid in recruitment efforts was approved with an amendment.

Initially, Fire Chief John Workman requested a transfer of $30,000 from the ambulance receipts to the EMS wage account through an article on the special Town Meeting warrant. During Tuesday’s meeting, that transfer was amended and approved at $25,000 because that’s all that was left in the ambulance receipts account after paying down the debt on the town’s newest ambulance.

Residents also approved the purchase of a $294,000 single-axle dump truck with plow and sander body for the Highway Department in a paper ballot vote, 148-13.

The measure was originally approved at the last Town Meeting, but failed when it hit the ballot. In speaking in favor of the measure, Highway Superintendent Randall Kemp said that the purchase of the new vehicle would replace a 1999 International 2574 Dump Truck. During the town’s most recent 1-inch snowstorm, two trucks went down.

“It cost more in overtime than it should have for a 1-inch snowstorm,” Kemp said.

Fourteen other articles on the warrant were approved with little to no discussion. The special Town Meeting was attended by 170 registered voters or 3.91% of the registered voters in town, according to Town Clerk Luci Dalton. Last October’s special Town Meeting had an attendance of 112 registered voters.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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