Select Board race heats up between neighbors



Published: 12-26-2016 10:15 AM

HATFIELD — Select Board meetings can stretch deep into the night. They can be dull.

But every once in a while, there’s a flash of drama, some simmering issue that needs to be addressed. Things can get tense, and then awkward, if only for a few moments.

On Nov. 29, as a Select Board meeting stretched into its 52nd minute, Stanley Pitchko — who is facing off against Edmund Jaworski for an open seat on the panel — had a grievance to air.

“You guys cut my trees,” Pitchko told the board in November, referring to an October incident when town contractors trimmed trees planted on his property. “You should talk.”

There was a pause. Pitchko wanted the board to speak to him, not the other way around. The members sat silent.

“I’ll speak to what I know of it,” Selectman Marcus Boyle said, breaking the silence. He said Pitchko’s trees on his Prospect Street property stretched onto town land.

“If the town feels they potentially pose some sort of hazard to traffic or otherwise, it clearly has the right to take them down, trim them, or anything else,” he said.

“Mine didn’t go over the road,” Pitchko told the board. “There was no need to cut my trees.”

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Pitchko, 58, is a deputy director of the Worcester Housing Authority and serves on the town Board of Assessors. He said he made his decision to run for the seat being vacated by Selectman Patrick J. Gaughan before the tree “butchering.”

“I think I was respectful, but I think I was pointed and direct at the same time,” Pitchko said in a recent interview. “That’s the type of passion I’m going to bring to this position for the people.”

He faces Jaworski, 62, a recently retired commissioning engineer for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Jan. 17 at the Memorial Town Hall, 59 Main St.

Jaworski has a long history of involvement in town. He is the past president of the Hatfield Polish Club and past commander of the American Legion Post 344.

“I just want to make this little piece of Earth a little better for the next guy,” Jaworski said.

Michael Cahill, himself a former selectman who has served on other boards, said both men would bring different styles to the job, and said both are qualified.

“I think Ed Jaworski is a little bit more laid back and tends to be a good listener from what I can tell,” he said. “And Stan Pitchko is, I think, more of an assertive personality.”

Both candidates were asked in interviews about the other issue on the Jan. 17 ballot: a debt exclusion question that would raise $325,000 for additional work on Town Hall. The money would be used to relocate the town Building Inspector and Board of Health offices from the Town Hall basement. Funds would also be used to add a secondary external ramp to the basement of Town Hall and for the expansion of the Council on Aging kitchen.

“Yes, I’m supporting the seniors in town,” Jaworski said. “I mean, the population in town is getting older. The population in town has some growing pains with the needs of our seniors.”

Pitchko wouldn’t say whether he’d be voting for the measure, but said voters’ approval of a similar measure in November to bring an elevator to Town Hall is displacing part of the Council on Aging kitchen, forcing the town into an awkward position.

“Whether I agree with them or don’t agree with them is neither here nor there,” Pitchko said. “Because the elevator got voted in, you need the debt exclusion to shift people around, like chess pieces.”

The fate of the old Center School on Main Street has also been a topic of conversation in town. Before it was announced the building would be converted into senior condominiums, there was debate over whether to tear it down.

On one hand, Pitchko said, the building became a nuisance, and he understood those who would’ve liked to see it come down. On the other, because the town waited, the building will now become condominiums, which he was glad to see.

“I find merit in both ways — keeping it because it is historical,” he said, “but on the other side, for safety and risk measures, we needed to make a decision and if it was razing the building because we couldn’t decide or sell it, then that’s what we should do.”

Jaworski said he was happy the building will again be in use.

“In the long run it’s going to benefit the town because it’s going to bring tax money to the tax base,” he said. “They finally found something that works and that’s a good thing.”

Both candidates are longtime Hatfield residents who have managed employees and facilities. Both have similar views on many of the same issues. Both said they would come to the job without an agenda.

So are there any differences, besides the difference in management styles?

“I think my biggest asset is being retired,” Jaworski said. “I have nothing against Stanley. He’s my neighbor up the street. But I think he works in Worcester. If he wants to run, that’s his business, but I don’t know where he’s going to get the time to do (the job).”

Pitchko, predictably, takes a different view.

He views his potential job as having an “oversight” capacity and doesn’t want to “micro-manage” town departments.

“My job is to make sure from an elevated level that they have the resources to do their job,” Pitchko said.

The man who one of the two men will replace, Gaughan, said he is choosing not to back a particular candidate in the race.

“I find both candidates to be excellent and the townspeople have to choose for themselves,” he said.

Contact Jack Suntrup at