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In this week's Times:

DPW plows through tough winter storms

By Peter Spotts
Turley Publications Staff Writer

WILBRAHAM – A relatively calm winter made a roaring resurgence two weeks ago when folks across Western Massachusetts found themselves buried under a foot of snow, the largest storm of the year.
Followed up by a couple of smaller storm flurries, Wilbraham Department of Public Works Director Edmond Miga Jr. praised the hard work and long hours the crews put in to keep the roads clear during the storms, which peaked at more than 4 inches per minute. With 11 plow routes, 20 vehicles, and sometimes private contractors being brought in to help handle the larger storms, storm week was very busy for the DPW.
“People were very understanding and I think the men did a great job of attacking the storm and it was long hours. It takes not just the effort of plowing, then the next day comes and the day after, and you're plowing sidewalks and preparing for the next storm. When they come back-to-back it is hard on the guys but I have to commend them, they did an excellent job,” Miga said. “At the height of the storm they were out there clearing streets trying to keep with it – public safety is our number one priority so we try to keep the mains opened up. It was pretty hard on the guys to maintain the roads with the snow coming down at that rate but we got through it. I'm proud of the guys.”
The best news to come out of the storm was the lack of damage or accidents to any residents, workers, or equipment. The vehicles are all going to be in good shape should another snow shower decide to swing by before spring rolls over the horizon.
“We did have one truck that during the height of the storm that slid off the road, we had to get it towed the next day. It didn't get harmed and the guy didn't get hurt it just slowed us down a little bit,” Miga said. “We always have down time on some equipment but for the most part, our vehicles are in pretty decent shape and we get them ready for the next storm event.”
The storm gauntlet has just about depleted the snow and ice removal budget accounts. This year's $75,000 allotment has been spread out across 17 different forays by the department to clean and maintain the roads and Miga said, too, a lot of their work plows under the radar.
“A lot of people don't realize it is not just a couple of storms. To date it is probably 17 times that we were out addressing storm events and a lot of it is icing and a lot of it happens at night. People don't realize that it is not just plowing snow. The temperature drops at night, any kind of moisture freezes and you're out hitting those areas that are icing up. With 240 lane miles of road out there you are bound to have icing. It doesn't stop,” he explained.
Should another storm arise, the DPW has permission to exercise deficit spending and go past their allotted budget to get the job done. If that happens the town has a couple of different methods to make up for the deficit. The first approach would be requesting a reserve fund transfer from the general fund. The second way occurs closer to the end of the fiscal year when the town accountant goes through the line item budgets for the town departments and sees if there are leftover funds. If there are, that money could be transferred to offset any snow and ice deficits at a town meeting.
The full snow plowing policy, which includes which sidewalks are plowed in addition to the roads, is available at
Miga reminds residents can help by shoveling out fire hydrants if they are buried; not only is it a help to the workers out plowing the roads and sidewalks it also is important for residents' safety if the hydrant needs to be accessed for an emergency during or following a storm.
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In this week's Times

Service with a smile…

Wilbraham Brownie Scouts Caroline Maloni, Madelyn Hoskinson and Charlotte Powell sell Girl Scout cookies in their “Cookie Drive-Thru” on Feb. 11 in front of Meatball Kitchen on Boston Road.

(TIMES photo submitted)
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In this week's Times:

MRHS students stay ‘above the influence’

Minnechaug club making a difference in the community

By Tyler S. Witkop
Turley Publications Staff Writer

WILBRAHAM – With a growing number of students being affected by drugs, suicide, bullying and domestic violence, one club at Minnechaug Regional High School is fighting to keep the community Above the Influence.
The club, led by former Lumberjack Club adviser Jay Dalessio, is taking the high school campus and community by storm, spreading important and positive messages in hopes of making a healthful difference. Formed last year, Dalessio said the club was in its infancy and planning stages featuring only a handful of students. Now, one year later, membership has exploded to include more than 30 students from all demographics.
“For this club, I’m making kids find me,” he said, noting that the message of remaining above the influence is important for students to believe themselves, not feel imposed by an adult. “I want you to want to be in it.”
Members spread the message of and do activities pertaining to the message of staying above the influence of drugs and alcohol, suicide, bullying and domestic violence. There are monthly speakers who talk to the club about their experiences with the various issues and members have participated in volunteer and community service projects.
For the month of January, the club collected gently used clothes, games and books for donation to the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke. Collection bins were full outside his classroom on Jan. 26. He said anyone looking to make a late donation can contact him at and he can arrange for pickup.
Most recently, club members greeted residents to the high school for the “Opioid, Prescription Drug and Youth” presentation on Jan. 25, hosted by the Hampden-Wilbraham Partners for Youth United for Safe, Healthy and Drug-free Communities.
“Coming into it I didn’t know that much,” student and club member Isabela Ferraro said about the opioid epidemic. She produced the documentary video “Drugs & Alcohol: It’s an Issue Here” featuring former Minnechaug students, the trailer of which played before the evening’s keynote presentation.
The full 49-minute video is available online through Wilbraham Public Access.
“I was shocked,” she said of the student’s stories. “It could start with anyone … it opened my eyes.”
Ferraro explained that going into her interviews and filming, she had very little experience with drug abuse in her own life, as she had a supportive network of family and friends that focused on making responsible decisions. Having completed the video, Ferraro hopes for the community at large to see and hear the message from their own neighbors so others may avoid falling into similar circumstances.
For Hailee Hartin, the club’s president, the message that stands out with the monthly speakers is that their stories of addiction could happen to any of the club members, their fellow students or their families.
“As students we tend to think ‘this can’t happen to me,’” she said, adding “These are all Minnechaug graduates.”
In order to hit the issue from all different perspectives, Dalessio noted past speakers have included former students, a mother who lost her son, a father who almost lost his son and a girl whose father was a heroin addict.
But the club does more than listen to speakers and communicate their message to peers. Casper Clavette said the club’s participation in the Out of the Darkness Walk for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was a powerful experience.
“Having a couple friends who’ve passed it was nice to have that support,” she said of the walk. She said the experience was one of an entire collective of people who have all dealt with similar tragedy.
“People care,” she said of what she took away from the experience. “There’s people everywhere around you that want to help you.”
Dalessio noted that the Out of the Darkness Walk will become an annual tradition of the club.
James Cardinale explained for him, one of the most meaningful activities was visiting the Soldiers Home in Holyoke and talking with veterans.
The group went to the Soldiers Home to visit with the veterans and serve them ice cream sundaes. Cardinale noted that it was upsetting for him to see the lack of visitors there and to think of how oftentimes the public perceives service-related mental health conditions as a sign of weakness.
“Some of us don’t realize they were more badass than we’ll ever be,” he said.
He and Dalessio noted it was uplifting to see the joy on the faces of the residents, especially when they fulfilled special orders to make the sundaes just the way they liked it.
“I want the community to be a better, safe place for everybody,” Cardinale said.
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