HAMPDEN — Executive search firm Community Paradigm Associates founder and Managing Principal Bernard Lynch met with the Hampden Board of Selectmen at its Jan. 8 meeting to review the progress on the town administrator search.

The board contracted with Community Paradigm Associates in October 2023 after receiving notice that Town Administrator Bob Markel was planning to vacate the position at the end of December 2023. Markel has since agreed to stay on until the new administrator is on board.

Lynch said the firm had identified shareholders, interviewed them and completed research to understand the type of administrator for which the town is looking. A recruitment ad went out on Nov. 5, 2023, and Community Paradigm Associates began active outreach to prospective candidates. Ten people applied for the position. They were narrowed to five candidates, however, two of them withdrew themselves from consideration.

The remaining three candidates are Christopher Caputo, the current treasurer/collector in Agawam, who has also worked for Springfield, Westfield and Longmeadow; and Brian Domina, the town administrator in Whately. He comes from a law background and has worked with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. The final candidate is Ryan McNutt, who resigned as Palmer’s town manager in October 2023 without public explanation.

The candidates will be interviewed by the Board of Selectmen on Jan. 18 at 3 p.m., who plan to decide between the candidates at the Jan. 29 meeting.

Gaming Commission funds

The Board of Selectmen decided which projects it will fund using $203,100 in Gaming Commission funding that had once been slated for a Main Street sidewalk. The sidewalk design funding was dependent upon the state funding construction through the transportation bond bill, which it did not. Because of this, Markel had explained, the commission was allowing the town to use the fundings for other projects.

At the previous meeting on Jan. 2, it was suggested that some of the money be used for construction of a sidewalk along Allen Street and Somers Road, but it was realized that the funding would not cover the cost. It was also suggested that the funds could be a local match for a state grant to fix the bridge on Main Street, which needs structural work. Board of Selectmen member Craig Rivest had also suggested adding flashing lights to a crosswalk outside the Town Hall for safety. At the meeting on Jan. 8, he floated potential projects such as a tourism program promoting hiking in Hampden, extending the Main Street sidewalk without connecting to the existing infrastructure, a program to mitigate trafficking and money laundering, anti-impaired driving measures or a road safety audit for the intersection of Allen Street and East Longmeadow, Somers and Wilbraham roads.

Rivest said the sidewalks may not be the best use of the money. Instead, he suggested the town pursue the crosswalk, and bridge match as priorities. Board of Selectmen member John Flynn and Board of Selectmen Chair Donald Davenport also liked the tourism possibility.

Markel pointed out that a new round of Gaming Commission funds would be released in the near future and any of the current funds that are left over could be rolled into the next round.

The town had also received $152,747, its portion of revenue from the 2022 Fair Share Amendment, also known as the “Millionaire’s Tax.” The amendment added a 4% surcharge to annual income over $1 million, with the revenue earmarked for transportation and education. Because this money was specifically intended for roadwork, Flynn was adamant that this pool of funding be added to the Highway Department’s budget. He said the town’s road needs are not funded well enough to meet its needs. The other board members agreed.

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