Monday, February 8, 2016

Mark Gold Announces Re-election Bid

With a commitment to continue to serve Longmeadow residents and bring balance to the select Board, I am announcing that I am seeking reelection to the Longmeadow Select Board for a three year term.  Over the next three years the town of Longmeadow will face important issues that include tax rates, water rates, and decisions on major capital projects, and I believe I have the experience, understanding and common sense approach to positively contribute to the resolution of these issues.

Since being elected to the Select Board I have demonstrated my commitment to serve the town.  I have advocated for maintaining the level of town services that Longmeadow residents have come to expect and holding the line on residential property taxes.  I have taken a leadership role in setting the financial plan for Longmeadow, being particularly proud that the Select Board has presented the town with balanced budgets during each of my years on the Select Board.   This fiscal control was the result of planning by the select board that maintained the level of town services residents have come to expect.  I have been instrumental in several achievements that will have a positive lasting impact on the town, including securing trash hauling contracts that have saved the town tens of thousands of dollars, and defining the surrounding community mitigation settlement with MGM.

Through my background as an engineer and my experience on the Select Board I have demonstrated an understanding for the programs and systems of the town and my ability to lead the discussion about each of the issues that the Select Board faces.

My wife Ellen and I raised two children who attended Longmeadow public schools and I believe that our 39 years of living in Longmeadow has given me a strong sense of the issues, sensitivities, and characteristics of the town that residents of Longmeadow care most about.

I am honored to have been elected to the Select Board by the residents of Longmeadow over the past seven years.  I hope that the level judgement and balanced approach to addressing the town’s issues that I have demonstrated resonates with town residents and I ask for their votes this year so I can continue to advocate for the greatest good for all the residents of the town.

Mark Gold
Member, Longmeadow Select Board

Challenging Times Ahead for Longmeadow- Part II

The Full Cost of Education in Longmeadow

Almost $10 million of school related expenses are not included in the School Department's annual budget but are instead combined with town related budget line items.  Some of these expenses include school department employee/ retiree benefits (health insurance/Medicare, pensions, etc.) that can increase significantly from year to year and which must be covered on the Town side of the budget.

Here is the rest of the story....

Mid-February is the time of the year that the School Committee approves and then submits a School Department budget to the Town Manager.  The TM is responsible for creating the Town Budget which is then approved by the Select Board to be voted on at the Annual Town Meeting in early May.

Given ever increasing costs and limited increases in town revenue, this process can be difficult.  This year the School Committee is considering three budget options as shown below in order to begin a transition to all day FREE kindergarten which is the state is likely to mandate sometime in the near future.
  • Tier I includes FREE full day kindergarten; requires an additional $277,144 in general fund revenues or cuts will need to be made.
  • Tier II includes a full day kindergarten fee of $1,250; requires an additional $155,645 in general fund revenues or cuts will need to be made.
  • Tier III includes a full day kindergarten fee of $2,000; requires an additional $61,895 in general fund revenues or cuts will need to be made.
Before deciding which Tier should be chosen, it is useful to consider how the budget is constructed.  The data used for this example is the current FY2016 budget as it was approved at the Annual Town Meeting last May.  It should be noted that the budget numbers change continuously and are not finalized until the fiscal year is over.

Revenue Sources
There are many different sources of income for the town including property taxes, Chapter 70 state aid, water and sewer fees, etc.  Table I below shows the sources and amounts of money used to fund the FY2016 budget.  Water and sewer are treated as "free standing" Enterprise Funds meaning the fees collected cover the cost of operations including capital projects.

Table I- FY2016/ ATM Sources of Income
[click to enlarge]

Note that the Total Sources increase from FY15 --> FY 16 was only $506,000 or 1.3%.  Increase in Property Taxes was 2.8% or $1.28 million.  Increases in Property Taxes are controlled by Proposition 2½ limitations.

Expenses
In Table II below is a summary of all of various expenses (or uses) for the Town of Longmeadow.

Table II- Uses Summary- FY2016
[click to enlarge]
It is interesting to note that the School Department budget as presented at the Annual Town Meeting does not include expenses such as employee/ retiree health care and pension benefits, school maintenance, school crossing guards or debt service (interest + principal on outstanding bonds for school building projects).

There was a significant increase in the cost of providing health care/ retiree benefits for school department (and town) employees from FY2015 to FY2016.  For school department employees this cost increase was $292K which is a significant amount relative to the increase in annual revenue for the town.

At the 2015 Annual Town Meeting the School Department FY2016 budget was presented as $35.3 million.  With the additional school department related expenses included, this number increases to $44.9 million, an increase of $9.6 million or 69% of the total town budget.

With 2882 students attending Longmeadow schools in FY2016, the cost of educating our children is ~$15,600/year.

When asking the Select Board (and taxpayers) for additional money to support new programs, the School Committee should consider the impact of other school department related budget increases that are being covered in the Town side of the budget.

There is a Public Hearing on the FY2017 Budget being held by the Longmeadow School Committee on February 9 starting at 7 PM in Room A15 at Longmeadow High School.  

Here is a link to the FY2017 School Department Budget presentation by School Superintendent Marie Doyle to the School Committee on February 1.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Challenging Times Ahead for Longmeadow- Part I

Longmeadow Property Taxes- Part I


You have probably just finished paying your FY2016/2Q real estate tax bill which was due earlier this week.

It is interesting to look at Longmeadow property taxes since 2000 and project what level they may reach in 2020.



Emerging budget issues include funding of "free" (or reduced) tuition" for all day kindergarten as well as three major capital projects (new DPW facility, renovated or new Senior Center and new middle schools).  There is also a looming financial crisis related to taxation limits by Proposition 2½ that may occur as soon as FY2020.   Therefore, it is useful to consider their impact on future Longmeadow property taxes.

In this first LongmeadowBuzz post- Longmeadow Property Taxes- Part I, the discussion will be limited and not include the impact of the three large capital projects under consideration. In Parts II and III, the impact of each of these major capital projects will incrementally be added to the base case.

In Figure 1 below there is a chart of Longmeadow property taxes since 2000 which have increased at an average annual rate of 4.2%.  This annual change is significantly higher than the average annual change in CPI over this same time period (+2.2%/year).  Proposition 2½ limits annual property tax increases to ~ 2.5% but five different Proposition 2½ overrides (see table in the right side of chart in Figure 1 below) are the primary reasons for the average increase to exceed that limit.

Figure 1- Longmeadow Property Taxes

[click to enlarge]
[Note: The information used to create all of these charts was obtained from the Massachusetts DOR website.]

The mean or average Longmeadow tax bill in FY2016 is $7977 (corresponding to a mean property value of $327,848).  This mean (or average) tax bill is a bit misleading because of the wide range of property values in Longmeadow.  The range of Longmeadow single family FY2016 property tax bills for almost 5500 properties is from $3100 to $42,800.

A more useful statistic is the median (50% are lower, 50% are higher) tax bill.  With a FY2016 median property value of  $285,100 (x $24.33/$1000), the FY2016 median tax bill is $6936.

Tax Rate vs. Property Taxes
Recently, local media reported that Longmeadow is ranked #1 with the highest TAX RATE (mil rate) in the state (see Table I below).  All of the towns ranked in the top 10 with the exception of Ashburnham are located in the central/ western part of our state.
East Longmeadow is ranked #11.

Table I- Tax Rates- Massachusetts Cities and Towns
[click to enlarge]
However, PROPERTY TAXES (FY2016) in Longmeadow are ranked #41 out of 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts (see Table II below). Not surprising...all of the cities and towns with higher taxes are located in the eastern part of our state.

Table II- Property Taxes- Massachusetts Cities and Towns
[click to enlarge]
Are there any issues related to Longmeadow's high tax rate?

Proposition 2½ was passed into law in 1980.  It imposes a levy limit which is usually ~ 2.5% maximum increase in property taxes per year with unused amounts that can be "banked" and used in subsequent years.

There is also another important aspect of this Proposition 2½ law that may affect Longmeadow property taxes in FY2020.  It involves the levy ceiling which provides that the maximum amount of property taxes that can be charged to property owners in a given year is 2.5% of the total property value or a maximum mil rate of $25/$1000 of property value.  Debt exclusion overrides for major capital projects such as Longmeadow High School are not counted in this levy ceiling.

Assessed property values for Longmeadow vs. the surrounding communities have shown a flat to lower average assessed value for the past 10 years (see Figure 2 below).  Average state assessed values have increased somewhat in the past two years.  With flat to lower assessed property values, the levy ceiling will be reached faster than if the assessed property values were increasing each year.

Figure 2- Assessed Property Values- Longmeadow vs. East Longmeadow et al

In Figure 1 there is a line entitled "discounted mil rate" (does not included debt excluded overrrides) which is this levy ceiling.  If property values remain stable and there are no Proposition 2½ Operational Overrides (these increases are not discounted), Longmeadow will likely reach the maximum $25/$1000 mil rate in FY2020 and we will no longer be able to increase taxes.  At that time without increases in assessed property values or a change in Mass General Law, Longmeadow will need to make major changes in how we meet our town budget revenue needs including charging fees for various services including trash collection, etc.  In addition, in order to meet a balanced budget and contractual salary increases, town/ school staff and/or services will likely need to be cut drastically.

Our Select Board should engage in discussions with Rep. Brian Ashe and Senator Eric Lesser to see if this levy ceiling restriction in the Proposition 2½ law can be increased or eliminated to help Longmeadow (and other communities with high mil rates) avoid the potential budget crisis that we will be facing in FY2020.

Reaching this levy ceiling will not be a pretty scenario for our town!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Update- Longmeadow Adult Center Feasibility and Design Study

Lots of progress on this project.  It is time to form a Select Board Committee to oversee the efforts toward renovation and/ or construction of a new Longmeadow Adult Center.
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Background
At the May 2014 Annual Town Meeting, Article #30- (by citizen petition) was approved requesting $35,000 for a feasibility study of options to provide suitable space and facilities for the Longmeadow Council on Aging Center. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission was engaged to begin the study and submitted results at a cost of approximately $10,000.   An analysis of new building vs. renovation of existing building was completed. 

At the May 2015 Annual Town Meeting Article #24 (by citizen petition) was approved "to engage an architect and/or engineer to do further cost analysis of 2 sites for the purpose of identifying a recommended location to house truly suitable space and suitable facility for the Longmeadow Adult Community Center".
_______________________________

Most recent efforts have been under the auspices of a Town Manager "Task Force" which has functioned in much the same manner as the recent TM Task Force for the new DPW Facility.  While meetings are open to the public, TM Task Force groups are not required to post meeting notices/ agendas, minutes or any updates of their efforts.

On Monday, I was visiting the Adult Center and discovered that this TM Task Force was meeting and decided to attend (meetings are open to the public).  At this meeting there were two representatives in attendance from Dietz & Company Architects, Inc.- a prominent architectural firm involved with construction of many senior citizen facilities who discussed the details of their recently issued report (Longmeadow Adult Center: Feasibility Study and Design Study) considering 4 different sites (expansion + renovation of Greenwood Center + a new facility at three different locations in Turner Park).

Below are site drawings showing each of the four options:
Greenwood Park Option [click image to enlarge]

Turner Park- Option #1 [click image to enlarge]
Turner Park- Option #2 [click image to enlarge]
Turner Park- Option #3 [click image to enlarge]

Floor plans for the Greenwood Park renovation + expansion proposal vs. the three identical Turner Park proposed facilities in different locations are shown below:
Greenwood Park Renovation + Expansion [click drawing to enlarge]

Turner Park Facility [click drawing to enlarge]

Below are the comparative costs that have been developed by Dietz & Company Architects, Inc. 

It should be highlighted that the Greenwood Center renovation + expansion cost estimate includes upgrades of portions of the existing building that are not part of current or proposed Adult Center.  These upgrades including electrical, handicap access, etc. would be required by the state of Massachusetts.

It should also be pointed out that the cost estimates shown in the table below are not total project costs since they do not include FFE (furnishings, fixtures and equipment) or any "soft" costs such as permitting, etc.  It appears likely that all-inclusive costs for each of the four proposals will exceed $10 million.

Comparative Costs [click table to enlarge]
This project has certainly emerged from a concept stage to one that should be placed on the agenda for future capital expenditures side-by-side with the new DPW facility and the new/ renovated middle schools. 

There are certainly challenges ahead for each of the proposed options. 

Therefore, it is time for this Town Manager Task Force to be changed to a Select Board Committee to allow town residents to become better informed and to weigh in about the timetable, options and cost of this much needed facility upgrade.

Friday, January 22, 2016

An Amazing Painted Hadley Chest

This article was written by Betsy Port and is posted here for reading by LongmeadowBuzz blog readers...
Our corner of New England is rich in history. Over 300 years ago, woodworkers in the Connecticut River Valley were making remarkable pieces of furniture. An extraordinary example of early American Furniture, from our area, was recently re-discovered in California. It has a fascinating connection with this region and specifically Longmeadow.

Have you ever heard of a Hadley Chest? Young women, who were about to be married, often received wedding gifts for their new homes. The girls in the Hadley-Hatfield area used these storage pieces for their dowery items like blankets, linens, sheets and personal items to keep items safe and dry. This 1-3 drawer form, similar to a blanket chest, consisted of a hinged top and was often carved with floral designs, vines and geometric patterns. Hundreds of these chests were made, and a select few have survived in museums and private art collections. Experts in the field of American furniture think that over 500 Hadley type pieces were made between 1680-1740. Specialists believe this example dates from circa 1715.

The Hadley chest with a Longmeadow connection is the best of the best! 

The original paint, protected by layers of varnish, has been preserved in fine condition. One hundred years ago it was in the Edward Spaulding Brewer Mansion on Longmeadow Street, before the Brewer Family sold their home to the Young Family. Born in Springfield, Mr. Brewer (1846-1911) was a politician, community leader and art collector. They bought his mansion at 734 Longmeadow Street from the Samuel Wolcott heirs in the late 1800s. Brewer was a town selectman during the period of 1892-93 when the town split in two, creating the two separate towns of East Longmeadow and Longmeadow. He went on to be a member of the Hampden Legislature and a member of the Longmeadow Historical Society. A citizen of great wealth, he also had land in Worthington and owned the Ocean House Hotel in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. He could have inherited the chest through his family, as he was related to the Porter, Barnard and Williams families. Sometime in the teens or 1920s this fine and rare painted Hadley Chest ended up on the West Coast, probably with his son, Edward Harris Brewer. The New York Times described the Brewer collection in an 1893 article stating “one of the largest and most perfect of existing collections of furniture, household belongings, china, literature, documents, and other curios pertaining to the colonial period and the earlier years of the United States. Almost every piece has a history and credentials, and nothing has been thought too homely or primitive for admission to the collection, if only it illustrates the familiar, everyday life of early days.”

We do not know who this chest was made for. These case pieces were custom made for the elite families and considered luxury goods. Some of the Hadley chests have carved initials on the front surface stating who the chest was made for. Rhoda Belding, Hepzibah Dickinson, Katron King, Sarah Williams, Martha Williams, Esther Williams, Hannah Barnard, Mary Pease, Joanna Porter and Sarah Hawkes are just some of the names that their Hadley chests have immortalized. Similar chests are in the Henry Ford Greenfield Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, the Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum in Delaware and in the Memorial Hall , (Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association) Deerfield, Massachusetts. The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley has a similar “compass” painted chest in their historic house museum. This is worth a trip! The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Historic Northampton Museum, The Wadsworth Athenaeum and several other institutions also have special Hadley-type chests in their collections. None are as unique and rare as the one from the Brewer family from Springfield-Longmeadow. The character of the colorful paint designs and quality of the condition make it the best of its type!

The upcoming sale of this chest is a hot topic in Manhattan art circles. Every year, Americana Week is held in late January during the time of the Winter Antiques Show at the Armory on Park Avenue. Christie’s auction house, located in Rockefeller Center in midtown, will be offering the Hadley Chest in their January 22nd sale. The estimate is vague with the text in the catalog stating, “ estimate upon request”. The last Hadley chest sold at Christie’s in 2011 fetched more than $400,000. I have heard, off the record, that this particular chest may go for more than $500,000 and perhaps much more. I recently discovered the existence of this chest from the Facebook page entitled “Historic Springfield & Pioneer Valley”, which I follow to find out news of local historical events. It would be wonderful if the Hadley Chest came back east. A private collector from Western Massachusetts, or a local museum, would be an appropriate spot for a piece of 18th Century furniture of such importance. It will be a very exciting auction to watch. Bidding could be fierce if two or more individuals are intent on winning the competition. Will someone from our local area have the means and the foresight to bring our heritage home? Could a successful bidder donate it to a museum in the Connecticut River Valley? I certainly hope so. One hundred years is a long time to be away from home! 

by Betsy Port/ Longmeadow Resident
____________________________________________ 

Auction Update
This Hadley Chest was auctioned off at Christie's for $850,000 on January 22, 2016.  The starting bid for this 300 year piece of colonial furniture was $320,000.  With the buyer's premium included the auction sale price was $1,025,000! The buyer was not identified. Here is a link to a post on the Longmeadow Historical Society Facebook page with additional information.

Friday, January 15, 2016

School Committee Decision Held Hostage

The process of selecting and hiring a new Longmeadow School Superintendent to replace Marie Doyle who will be retiring on June 30 has been a time consuming, expensive and contentious process and it is not over yet!

This effort has involved the use of an outside consultant who developed a candidate selection process, launched a nationwide search and facilitated a SC Screening Committee to identify three finalists for the position. Prior to the final public interviews in mid December one of three final candidates withdrew leaving Martin O’Shea- current superintendent of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District and Neil Gile- current principal at Wolf Swamp Road Elementary School for the position.


Current Situation


Final approval of the contract to hire Mr. O'Shea as the new school superintendent is being held hostage
by an "open meeting law" complaint filed by town resident Attorney Scott Foster.
  As long as this complaint is active with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, Mr. O'Shea cannot be offered a contract without the caveat "approved pending a favorable AG decision"

It would appear that the School Committee has done its due diligence in responding to the OML complaint and has initiated policy changes that should prevent a re-occurrence.  The "redo" of the preliminary candidate screening meetings seems a little overdone and non-consequential but is planned as well.

I believe that this OML complaint is a very thinly disguised attempt to overturn the SC's vote to hire Mr. O'Shea.

If the contract signing is delayed for months because of uncertainty of the AG's actions, it could result in Mr. O'Shea deciding to withdraw his candidacy leaving Mr. Gile as the only viable candidate at this time. 

It's now time for Attorney Foster and others supporting Mr. Gile to step back and accept the SC's hiring decision by withdrawing the complaint.   

These actions will continue to cost Longmeadow taxpayers significant money in legal fees at the same time that our School Committee is currently facing a $1.2 million shortfall in funding for FY2017 (see this week's Reminder Publications article).  It's interesting that this is one of the areas that Mr. O'Shea's experience substantially outshadows Mr. Gile's limited experience.

Background InformationAfter two lengthy public meeting discussions, school visits and a second round of interviews with the two finalists, the School Committee in a vote of 4-2 (later amended to 6-0) selected Mr. O’Shea as the new School Superintendent.

Mr. Gile had strong support from some community members and local school professionals as well as two SC members (Ms. Grodsky and Atty. Dupere).  All SC members expressed that they felt both candidates were well qualified but the SC picked Mr. O’Shea primarily because of his greater depth of experience with school administration, budgeting, etc.

However, after the SC final vote, it was obvious on social media that many supporters of Mr. Gile were deeply disappointed and threaten to do what they could to overturn the decision.

In late December, a formal complaint was sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office by Atty. Scott Foster alleging that there were “open meeting law” violations for the two meetings of the candidate selection subcommittee.  These OML violations consisted primarily that these two meetings were not “posted”, minutes were not made public and there were inappropriate executive session discussions.

Here is how this OML complaint process works (from the Mass AG website):

“For complaints alleging a violation of the Open Meeting Law by a local public body, you must file with the public body and file a copy with the clerk of the city or town where the alleged violation occurred. For complaints alleging a violation by a county, regional or state public body, you must file with the chair of the public body."

"If you are not satisfied with the action taken by the public body in response to your complaint, you may file a copy of your complaint with the Attorney General's Office 30 days after filing your complaint with the public body. The Attorney General's Office may decline to investigate a complaint that is filed with the Attorney General's Office more than 90 days after the alleged OML violation, unless an extension was granted to the public body or the complainant demonstrates good cause for the delay.”

After considerable consultation with their attorney the SC has responded to the formal complaint by evaluating and modifying their policy for posting of public meetings so that the lack of posting does not occur again.  In addition, they are planning to conduct “do-overs” of the two screening meetings that would include approval of minutes but will not constitute a round of candidate interviews.  There would be no review of interview videos or resumes at these two "do-over" meetings.  It is expected but not assured that the vote for the three finalists would be the same given the high ratings each of the original finalists were given.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Opposition to the Use of Wolf Swamp Fields for a DPW Site

This letter was prepared for presentation at the Park Board meeting on Jan 11th, which was subsequently cancelled.  There are over 75 signatures to this letter which was submitted for publication by Moira Murphy.
________________________________________

To: Longmeadow’s Park Commission Board
From: Moira Murphy and Other Signatories
Date: January 11, 2016

Opposition to the Use of Wolf Swamp Fields for a DPW Site

As you know, a DPW Task Force had been evaluating alternate sites for a new DPW facility. It is my understanding that this committee has now been disbanded by recent vote of the Select Board, and a new committee will be formed consisting of 9 members plus Town Manager Stephen Crane, as an ex-officio non-voting member. The new committee will operate as a subcommittee reporting directly to the Select Board.

Wolf Swamp Road Field- Longmeadow Parks-Rec Dept Lacrosse Jamboree

We don’t yet know how the new DPW commission will proceed, and whether it will choose to revisit the analyses and recommendations of the prior Task Force. However, it was very concerning to me and many other residents (a number of whom are signatories to this letter) that this prior committee had identified the Wolf Swamp recreational fields as its preferred site for the new DPW facility. I would therefore like to formally express our strong opposition to this proposal, and call the Commission’s attention to the following points, some of which have already been mentioned by John Glenn:

The proposed facility will be industrial in nature, as it will house more than 30 trucks and other heavy equipment, salt sheds, fuels tanks and pumps, and multiple storage bins for bulk materials. It would be located immediately adjacent to our athletic fields and would be totally incompatible with what is otherwise a beautiful “green” area of Town.

The proposal would involve the taking of up to 25% of the field space, which is currently designated for recreational use. As you know, recreational space within town is already inadequate.

The proposal also involves the loss of at least 2 of the 5 softball/ baseball fields.

The proposal provides for a “potential expansion area” to replace the 25% loss of field space. However, the expansion area has a number of disadvantages:
  • The expansion area is smaller than the lost area.
  • The expansion area would necessitate the clear-cutting of a treed area, which may violate State and/or Town Conservation Regulations.
  • Based on the presentation shown at Town Meeting, the expansion area would come within 50 feet of wetland areas – and again may be in violation of State and Town Wetland Regulations.
  • The proposed expansion area is shaped like a “U” – and once fencing and sidelines are factored in, much, if not all, of this space is unusable. If additional wetlands buffering is required, the problem is even worse.
  • Finally, the expansion area would be located at the farthest point from parking, about .2 miles away from the main lot.
If the net useable field space were, in fact, reduced, this would have a significant effect on whether the Wolf Swamp fields can accommodate tournaments.Trucks and heavy equipment will be coming and going during the day. It is unclear whether this will present any safety issues after school or during the summer when the
fields are in heavy use.

The existence and availability of parks and recreational areas is clearly a priority for Town residents, this Commission, and the State. Various Massachusetts Regulations and pending bills exist to explicitly govern the change in use of open lands - and protect, preserve and enhance these areas. I also note that the mission of this Commission is dedicated to “developing and maintaining beautiful, safe, and environmentally friendly
open spaces for the public to use and enjoy.”

In closing, the DPW proposal is clearly inconsistent with the mission of the Town’s Park Commission, and the State Laws and Regulations governing parkland, conservation areas, and wetlands. The DPW facility’s presence will be incompatible with the otherwise park-like surroundings of the area and, most importantly, it will likely result in a significant reduction in the amount of recreational area available to our children and
residents.

We hope you will join us in opposing the Wolf Swamp site proposal.

Thank you,

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Some additional questions/ comments about the new DPW Project

The following letter is from Moira Murphy- a long time town resident with questions and comments about the new DPW facility project.  This letter was read to Select Board members at their regular meeting on January 4, 2016
________________________________________________

I want to thank you for the opportunity to address the Board.

I was not able to attend the November town meeting when the issue of the proposed DPW sites was discussed. But I understand only about 140 or so townspeople attended the meeting, so there are likely many residents like me who were unaware, and may still be unaware, of this issue.

A number of people have recently brought this to my attention and have expressed concerns about the Wolf Swamp Field site proposal in particular and, as importantly, about the process that is being used to develop a proposal and keep residents informed. Most residents including myself understood both votes to approve funds for the DPW project were to further analyze the 3 sites- Grande Meadows, Wolf Swamp and the current site. Is that the case? or is the DPW task force moving forward with the Wolf Swamp site only as the site? That also raises the question of the current task force town resident members? There should be representatives from members of youth lacrosse, soccer, baseball and Wolf Swamp Field abutters as they are stakeholders of these fields.

I think these process items are important since so few residents were at the town meeting, and only very high-level information was shared about the selection and scoring process.

I would like to present some questions :
  • What are the key dates in terms of when critical decisions will need to be made?
  • What town votes will be required and when?
It would be good for the public to understand how the process of site selection will work - e.g.:
  • Which committees are involved in the process, who has primary responsibility, and who are the members of the various committees?
  • How residents will be kept informed of discussions, and what opportunity will be provided for resident input?
  • Are the various committee meetings open to the public?
  • Will minutes be published?
  • How will this be shared with residents?
  • Is there opportunity for additional resident representation? What would that process be?
I know the town residents approved funds to evaluate multiple DPW sites. For the May town vote, will the committees be presenting the results for just 1 site, or will results be shown for 2 sites and the current site?

Thank you again for the opportunity to address these issues, I look forward to the answers from The Select Board as there are many questions that the public needs to know to be able to vote for the funds to builds new DPW facility.

Respectfully Submitted,
Moira Murphy
Longmeadow, MA

Town Residents Express Concerns about the new DPW Facility Project

The following letter from a group of town residents expresses their concerns about the process being used to develop plans for the new DPW facility.  This letter was read to Select Board members at their regular meeting on January 4, 2016
______________________________________________

                                                                              December 28, 2015

Dear Select Board Members:

Several of us had the opportunity to attend a DPW Task Force meeting held on December 9 regarding the selection of a proposed DPW facility. We are writing to make you aware that many of the Town’s residents have concerns about the process used to date by the Task Force, the apparent consideration of future capital projects in isolation, and, most importantly, the proposed DPW site on Wolf Swamp Road. Our concerns primarily are as follows:

While we appreciate the work done by the Task Force and Stephen Crane, Town Manager and Chairman of the Task Force, we learned that there has been no public notice of its meetings, no public agenda and no minutes taken or reports made available for review by Town residents other than the power point presentation used at the November Town Meeting. While we were told that the Select Board recently voted to change the Task Force to a Committee, which would be subject to the Open Meeting law, we would have preferred a more transparent process which was open to the public from the beginning.

[click to enlarge]
No one doubts the need for a new DPW facility. However, the proposed Wolf Swamp location which is the top site choice of the Task Force would involve the taking significant field space (20-25% as Crane has stated) used by hundreds of kids for soccer, baseball and lacrosse.  Field space in Longmeadow is at a premium and the removal of almost one quarter of the Wolf Swamp field space undoubtedly would create hardships and scheduling issues.

We believe that the Wolf Swamp site would significantly detract from the aesthetics of the Town. Should this site be selected, a beautiful section of Town which is currently “green”, with soccer/ lacrosse/ baseball fields, The Field Club, Twin Hills Country Club and nearby residential areas, would be home to a large “industrial” facility. Regardless of efforts made to make the building attractive, the proposed new facility would be home to 30 trucks and other equipment, salt shed, fuel island and multiple bulk storage buildings. The facility also will contain a large paved parking lot. There is no doubt that this clearly would be a commercial/ industrial site incompatible with its surroundings.

In addition, we believe that this project should not be considered in isolation. The Select Board has endorsed a new senior center as a priority and funding for design work has been approved. In addition, the School Board may seek funding for a new combined middle school. Improvements in water and sewer lines are needed. We believe that these projects should be considered together and prioritized with input from town residents since, after all, the projects’ combined costs will be substantial as will be the tax revenues needed to pay for them.

In closing, we respectfully suggest that the Select Board and the Task Force/Committee consider other available options, including the current DPW location, before a final decision is made and voted upon.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

David Appleman
Chris Orzulak
Mike Freedman
Gina Pantusco
John Glenn
Rick and Debra Purrington
Marsha Harbison
Ryan Shanks
Doug Jangraw
Caitlin Steiger
Laura and Mark Katz
Kim King
Carolyn Marchese
Moira Murphy
Tom O’Brien

Friday, December 18, 2015

A town resident weighs in

This letter in support of the appointment of Neil Gile as the new Superintendent to Longmeadow School Committee members was written by Tom Dignazio- a Longmeadow town resident with children attending Longmeadow public schools.

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Dear Committee Members:

I am writing today to express my family’s support for Neil Gile in the search for the new School Superintendent.  I have watched the candidate interviews and follow-up discussion, and feel strongly Principal Gile is best suited to serve the town in this critical role.  I know there will be additional interviews and due diligence, but based on the information available, I believe the choose is clear.

Mr. O’Shea appears to perfectly qualified for the role, and I am sure he would do an adequate job.  However, I believe Mr. Gile brings the following qualities which I have witnessed first hand:

Temperament: Parents in Longmeadow can be particularly assertive in their opinions regarding the schools.  Mr. Gile always treats all questions, concerns, and feedback from the public with respect and appropriate attention, even when such input is partially or ill-informed.   I don’t think it can be understated how important that trait will be in this role.

Common sense: I have been impressed with how Mr. Gile works with parents and teachers regarding discipline and learning challenges.  Being a parent with a child who spent an inordinate amount of time in the Mr. Gile’s office, I cannot stress how fortunate I felt that he was involved.

Transparency/Approachability:  I don’t think I need to tell this group how important this to Longmeadow.   I believe Mr. Gile is best positioned to learn from the mistakes from previous Superintendent.  He has always been open and accessible to Wolf Swamp Road School families.

Finally, I think there is something to be said for the fact that he has kids in our school system. 

I thank you for service on the committee and your diligence in the matter. 

Tom Dignazio
24 Crescent Road