Monday, August 3, 2015

My interview with Senator Eric Lesser

The following article was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Betsy Huber Port/ Longmeadow, MA.

The train may not stop here anymore, but please keep your fingers crossed folks! Soon we will be more connected than ever before! If things proceed as planned, we will once more be connected via train to the North-South Corridor from Springfield to Hartford, New Haven and New York City.  This should happen sometime in 2017, which is really not that far away!  Thank Eric Lesser and other hardworking leaders for joining together with legislators from Connecticut to make this dream a long-overdue reality!

There is bi-partisan support with 25 co-sponsors in the House and the Senate for legislation S. 1849. This act will study the feasibility of high-speed rail access between Springfield’s Union Station and Boston’s South Station. The issues to be explored are capital costs, revenue estimates, projected ridership levels, environmental and community impacts and ways of funding. There will probably be creative funding possibilities with a combination of federal, state, local and private sector contributions to the equation. Union Station’s renovation should be completed by the end of next year!

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Eric and some of his staff recently at the Lesser Headquarters in East Longmeadow. I remember Eric as a middle-schooler, so I feel a sense of pride that this Longmeadow student is now a successful senator. Eric explained the challenges and hopes he has for the high-speed rail to be realized in Western Massachusetts. The benefits will be transforming! The job opportunities will be greater, the housing values will increase and we will feel like a bigger part of the New England Community. Eric explained that when the old train system existed in the late 19th - early 20th century, Springfield was the crossroads of New England. When the cars, trucks and other vehicles were created about 100 years ago, the roadways were upgraded and expanded. In the 1950s, when the interstate highways became a reality, the Hartford area became the “new” crossroads as I-91 and I-84 intersected. In some ways, Springfield was forgotten. Also, the “Westa Worcester” mentality added to our isolation from Boston, although we are in the same state. Part two of the high-speed rail story will be the inland connection. We are 55 miles away from Worcester, and tracks do exist for freight trains. We need to reconnect to Worcester and improve the tracks to create a high-speed means of transportation to our Massachusetts State Capital. We do not have a firm timeframe for this, but Lesser is optimistic futurist.

Imagine this: getting to Boston in less than two hours via rail and also getting to Manhattan quickly and easily. No more traffic on the roads… If we can make this a reality, then our community will be connected once again! Twenty years ago when we were considering moving to Western Massachusetts, I was shocked at the idyllic but cut-off quality of the Springfield area. Remember, this was before the proliferation of cellphones, laptops and before everyone had an email account. Times have changed! We need to make our area part of a greater commuter rail system. In Europe this high-speed rail connectivity has already been a reality for ages. We are behind, but we don’t need to stay there!

I often forget that the train tracks still exist in “The Meadows”, but there are reminders. When I walk the dog down in the Fannie Stebbins Conservation area, I hear a train whistle around 11 am. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I hear the evocative whistle as part of my dreams. The tracks are there, we just need to improve them. Speak up! Tell your state reps that this is a huge priority for the next generation. Eric Lesser is part of a bi-partisan initiative to get us back on track – literally! 

Thank you Eric!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Loudest Quietest Place

The following article was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Betsy Huber Port/ Longmeadow, MA.

It should have been a peaceful summer afternoon, a couple of days after the solstice. Under our lush yellow wood tree, my husband and I sat down in the bucolic backyard for a few minutes to rest after a busy morning. We expected relative quiet punctuated by the sounds of songbirds.  Much to our consternation, trucks could be clearly heard roaring down the road along with construction workers digging up the street nearby and high decibel lawn mowers tending to the yards.  Repaving season is upon us. Drilling, digging, fixing, resurfacing…. it's an endless cycle of renewal during this time of year. It was a cacophony of outdoor sounds that proved deafening to my aging ears.  We left the big city over twenty years ago to raise our family in a more tranquil setting…what was going on? 

There is too often a confluence of events in our neighborhood that produces these layers of unharmonious irritating noises! There are the welcome sounds, such as waking up to the pecking of an early morning woodpecker in Bliss Woods and the music of various birds that start singing around 6 am. Later in the morning, those beautiful natural aural treats are rudely interrupted by the recently altered air traffic pattern, with Bradley’s flight paths now going straight over our roof. Then as the airplane passes above, a chainsaw begins to trim a huge oak tree in our neighbor’s yard with another unwelcome loud lawn machine in the backdrop and hammering across the street. To make matters worse, we hear an ambulance heading north towards Springfield and then a fire truck races behind it…a horn honks, a dog barks, a child cries and a bee is buzzing around my flowers! I try to meditate. A medley of mechanical sounds derails me. Next, the ceaseless infernal back up warnings of equipment and backhoes…Beep, Beep, Beep. Then along come the garbage trucks, slamming on their brakes and banging those trashcans upside down.  Ah, country life! Do you remember the song from the TV show Green Acres? Can you recall the words and the tune?

Eddie Albert’s character: “Green acres is the place to be! Farm living is the life for me! Land spreading out so far and wide, Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside”
His wife played by Eva Gabor replies: “New York is where I’d rather stay…I get allergic smelling hay, I just adore a penthouse view, Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue… “
“The stores! The chores!
Fresh air! Times Square
You are my wife. Goodbye city life.
Green Acres, we are there!”

This memorable song just makes me chuckle. Longmeadow may not be “The Country” but it certainly feels like the suburbs in a bucolic setting! I may not identify with the couple from the TV sitcom of the 1960s but it sure was funny to see that our town has a street called Greenacre. There are things that I miss about our Manhattan lifestyle, and more things that I treasure about our Longmeadow life.  The sounds of taxis honking and construction workers repairing and building the streetscapes of NYC sure were even louder than here, but they were expected and go with the territory. The city of Springfield is certainly not a major metropolitan area, but when the casino comes it certainly will bring with it some traffic and congestion! I’m anticipating the sights and sounds worsening as the construction on Interstate-91 progresses and the casino development gets underway. The historic semi-rural nature of our town has managed to survive the last century as our farming community developed into a commuter suburb. Let us hope that the character, integrity and privacy of our hometown can survive and thrive as we move forward towards our future. In the meantime, please don’t mow your lawn or for that matter blow your leaves after 6 pm and refrain from making loud mechanical noises on the weekends…I need some peace and quiet to write.

Betsy Huber Port

Saturday, June 27, 2015

RECC Alternatives

This letter was received by Longmeadow Buzz from Jeffrey Klotz
Mr. Crane,
Having reviewed the Hampden County RECC Feasibility and Technology Study Report prepared by The Carell Group, Inc, I have a very hard time understanding why you choose, at the point, to push forward.

In the Executive Summary (page 7) the report indicates that the basic premise for basic cost effectiveness of plan implementation is based on the receipt, from the State, of a 200% 911 Subsidy.  No where in the report is the certainty of the collection of this subsidy discussed, and the State has demonstrated that promised of reimbursement are not guaranteed.

Further in the Executive Summary it is clearly stated that "some towns would be net cost winners and others net cost losers.”  Longmeadow is presented 8 cases.  In 5 Longmeadow is a net cost loser.  In the other three, a 400% 911 State Subsidy is presented to establish Longmeadow as a net cost winner.

The report does not recommend for Longmeadow a 5-town dispatch center.  The report is at best inconclusive as it recommends 4 options.
  • join a 5-town dispatch center
  • join a 4-town dispatch center
  • join a 3-town dispatch center
  • stay a single town dispatch center, and transition to all civilian 911 dispatchers
The three recommendations in bold have yet to be explored.

The report clearly states that "Ludlow has something extra to gain by joining a RECC" (page 12), and that "Hampden would gain the most from a cost savings perspective" (page 10).  With implementation of a 5-town dispatch center, the taxpaying residents of Longmeadow would be subsidizing the residents of those communities.

Clearly selectmen voting to move forward on this project would be doing so against both fiscal and common sense.  Implementing a 5-town RECC is a losing proposition in many ways.

First, the numbers in the report show that for the Town of Longmeadow the only way the Town is a net cost winner is if the State 911 subsidy rate is 400%.  Second, the town's leadership has failed to explore any of the three other recommendations of the report highlighted in bold above.  And finally, a project of this size should not be considered in isolation when the town has other projects to consider such as Public Works, Middle Schools, and the Senior Center.

I support regionalism, but not regionalism whereby our Town residents are clearly paying more, losing a town resource (the Senior Center), and recommended options have yet to be explored.


Jeffrey Klotz, CPA, MBA
487 Converse Street

Friday, June 26, 2015

Greenwood on the Chopping Block

This opinion column was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz by Alex J. Grant, Longmeadow Select Board member.

The proposed regional 911 call center (RECC) is a significant policy question that could cost Longmeadow millions of dollars.  It would also impact a number of other building projects that are being proposed or planned.  There are many uncertainties, but the real question is whether voters will have a chance to decide whether to take a step toward regionalization that is likely to have an impact on their taxes.  I believe voters and their elected representatives should decide that question.

The June 15 presentation to the Select Board by consultants engaged by the town of Longmeadow and four other towns (Ludlow, Wilbraham, Hampden, East Longmeadow) was an eye opener.  A few days later, Select Board members received the full 220 page report which had been finalized on May 26.  The headline for me and probably for most of the community was learning that Greenwood Center had been identified as the likely location for the center.  Indeed, the report states: “the existing school building is available for conversion for RECC operations.”

Residents should understand that at no point has the Select Board voted to make Greenwood available for the regional call center.  How the consultants came to understand that Greenwood is available for that purpose is unknown to me.  More ominously, the other two possibilities studied by the consultants, the Hampden and Wilbraham police stations, are virtually ruled out in the report.  Make no mistake, Greenwood is the target.

The report provides drawings that show that a wing of Greenwood would be renovated to displace what is now a gymnasium and a number of other spaces that support a large variety of recreational and community programs, like the afterschool program and summer camps.  The proposal is for construction to begin during the summer of 2016.  No plan has been presented for how the town would cope with the loss of such a significant part of Greenwood.  With space in town and school buildings already tight, it is hard to imagine how we could maintain the current town services unless new space is built.

Replacing the loss of the Greenwood space will no doubt be expensive, and it is not even clear where we could build if we had the money.  Of all the five towns, space constraints are surely the most acute in Longmeadow, which has very little land for development.  Even assuming the 911 center could be paid entirely through state grants, Longmeadow would be left to its own resources to pay the upfront costs to replace the lost Greenwood space.

The cost of the regional call center at Greenwood is projected to be $5.6 million.  The consultants made it clear, in response to one of my questions, that the state grants would not make all of those funds available at the outset of the project.  We would have to start tearing down the Greenwood space without a guarantee that the requisite grant funding would be made in the ensuing years to complete the project.  The consultants seemed bullish that the state would eventually provide all of construction and outfitting costs, but we would have to run that risk.  The consultants also made it clear that the state would not be in a position to pay any of the upfront costs to replace the lost Greenwood space.

As this debate goes forward, residents will likely hear much about possible cost savings of a regional call center.  The consultants made it clear that cost is not a reason to choose this path.  In their presentation, they conceded: the RECC “may not result in any major or any cost saving, depending on town and RECC configuration.”  Instead, they maintained that the RECC would result in more professional and effective dispatching services.  For this reason, regionalization is worth careful consideration.

Whatever the relative advantages of a regional call center are, there can be no doubt that tearing down an entire wing of Greenwood will impact a great number of residents through the loss of important services or through higher taxes to pay for new space or a new building.  As the proposed host of this regional call center, Longmeadow faces a myriad of complicated and expensive issues that the other towns will not face.  It is noteworthy that both Wilbraham and Hampden are going to be building new police stations, and it appears there is no appetite to incorporate the regional call center into either facility.

I believe that such a significant pocketbook issue should be decided by voters at Town Meeting.  In addition, this issue must be part of an overall plan that addresses the services provided at Greenwood, the potential senior center renovation or replacement, and other projects that are in the pipeline.  To look at the RECC in isolation would be a costly mistake.  Before we take the first step in this process, we need to know the impact and all of the costs of putting the center at Greenwood since that outcome appears so likely.  Residents need to make their voices heard to the Town Manager and to the Select Board.  The Greenwood gym hosted the Wounded Warrior post-race lunch that served hundreds of people from the community.  Events and services like this are worth keeping.

Alex J. Grant

Alex J. Grant is a member of the Longmeadow Select Board. 
His email address is

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Brewer Young Mansion, Part II

The following article was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Betsy Huber Port/ Longmeadow, MA.

Fifty-Five years ago, Mary Ida Young passed away.  She died at home , located at 734 Longmeadow Street at the age of 95.  In 1959 she had fallen and was recuperating in her residence for a year or so. Although married four times, it was her second husband who had the Young name, which she retained after her last mate died. I bet she is rolling over in her grave these days. I hate to think of her watching from the clouds as her beautiful mansion falls apart. So much for heavenly rest.

The colonial revival Victorian masterpiece, built in 1884, is deteriorating before our eyes.  Looking sadder and more lonely each day, our town leaders are trying to resolve the situation.  Who can we contact? The National Trust for Historic Preservation or the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities should come here and save this mansion, but even our local Longmeadow Historic District seems unable to take action in a complicated legal situation involving foreclosure.  Now owned by a bank, we hope and pray for an angel to restore the home to its former grandeur and glory. This significant local architectural wonder was recently featured in an article in the Springfield Republican. People are taking interest and it’s a topic of conversation in town.

The Wood Museum of Springfield History is a special repository of historic documents and images.  At the Longmeadow Historical Society’s booth during the Long Meddowe Days weekend celebration, I first gazed at some impressive images displayed of the Young House. Some of the photographs are illustrated here, showing the grounds and interior.

Mary Ida lived there from 1922 to 1960 as wife of the inventor of Absorbine Jr.  The liniment was initially created for horses, and she was a horse lover. She had a racetrack behind her home in the meadows near the river in the area now home to the Interstate I-91.  The event grounds and house provided an elegant backdrop for fundraisers, parties, benefits and various special gatherings. Her obituary describes teas, dances and bridge parties occurring at her home over the years.  As a gardener she tended to orchids in her greenhouse and also owned many animals. In addition to her horses, at various times she owned deer, raccoons, peacocks, geese, swans, doves, turkeys, chicken, pheasants, dogs and sheep. She helped establish the first Republican Club in Springfield and attended Springfield’s Trinity Methodist Church each Sunday driven in a horse drawn carriage.

After her death, her grandson and his wife and family moved into the imposing residence despite concerns that the estate might be sub-divided into a development.  The traffic had lessened at this point in time because the meadows was now bisected by the new highway. Cars and trucks no longer needed to come directly through town, enroute to Springfield and the north-south corridor.

The condition of this historic structure is of great concern, especially after such a bitterly cold winter.  Many older homes need special upkeep and caring for them could make them less desirable to potential buyers who lack vision.  It takes a special person, with an appreciation of history, to responsibly restore and renovate such a home.  Let’s hope it‘s not too late for the Young house.  The place is a gem, and its central location on the town green makes it a prominent landmark for future generations…if it lasts!

 submitted by Betsy Huber Port

Regionalization of Emergency Response Center

The following LTE was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Jeffrey Klotz/ Longmeadow

During my unsuccessful campaign for Selectman, one of my central tenants was utilizing regionalization to save money.  At the June 15th Selectboard meeting, the new Board was presented one such effort, namely a proposed Regional Emergency Communications Center (RECC).  The purpose of the RECC is enable the member Towns to field their own cellular 911 calls, something I feel all can agree is needed as in a true emergency, seconds can be the difference between life and death.  The consultants asked to examine the issue, The Carell Group, identified the Greenwood Center as the best option for this project as it was most suitable to renovations.

As always, where an improvement is wanted, there is a cost.  And in this case, the cost has three components.  First, there is the financial cost projected to be $3.3 million in hard costs for the renovation of the proposed site, and an additional $2.4 million in soft costs.  Second, to residents of Longmeadow, there is the opportunity costs associated with the loss of the current use of the Greenwood Center.  And thirdly, there will be the costs of relocating the services currently provided within the Greenwood Center affecting both young and old in our community.

There are many unknowns regarding this project including (1) the number of communities who will join, and hence share the financial burden, and (2) whether the State can be relied upon to financially hold up to its promises (as it has not done so on the LHS project), and (3) the uncertainty of the long-term costs.

I am a big fan of regionalism.  I am a big fan of public safety.  But I am not a big fan of supporting projects that have not been thought out completely.  The funding is questionable, and there are no publicly available solutions as to what happens to the programs currently housed within the Greenwood Center.  With our Town's revenue approaching the legal upper mil rate limit, and with the community contemplating major overhauls for both our middle schools, public works, and seniors, this is not the time for our Selectman to support such a project.

I encourage our Selectboard to review the report from the Carell Group and explore the merits of the second and third place locations.


Jeffrey Klotz, CPA, MBA
487 Converse Street, Longmeaodow

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Richard Foster wants your vote on Tuesday

The following is from Richard Foster, candidate for re-election to the Longmeadow Select Board.

Shortly you will go to the polls to once again elect those you wish to provide executive leadership for our community. While I realize many of you may not be directly involved with the governance of your community, you do, however, control who is chosen to represent your interest. You deserve people who consistently demonstrate leadership qualities that clearly represent the highest priority needs of our entire community. We need select board members that clearly demonstrate professionalism, not only in representing you, but also in how they deal with other board members and senior managers in our community.

Your select board needs to demonstrate fiscal leadership by looking into the future and applying some common logic towards where we are headed. Longmeadow’s future requires a select board that recognizes the fiscal challenges and supports the expertise and forward thinking displayed by our Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Paul Pasterczyk, Town Manager Stephen Crane, Planning Board Member Walter Gunn, and the Director of the Pioneer Planning Commission Tim Brennan in our recent tax rate forum. All of these professionals realize we need to start working now to alter our future financial picture.

One of your select board members in the May 21-27 Reminder boasted that he “believes he brings fiscal leadership to the board.” This was the same select board member who went on to mock a recent forum on our tax rate as being akin to the “Chicken Little mentality where the sky is going to fall.” These statements are made by a person who has served you for nine years on the Select Board, one year on the School Committee, and two years on the Finance Committee. All these years he participated in increasing your taxes by the full amount allowed by law to our current point where we have the highest tax rate of any community across the Commonwealth, while the infrastructure needs of our community continued to be ignored.

I need your help in supporting a new direction to maintain the quality of life in Longmeadow and ensure its future.

Tom Lachiusa is running for the select board this year and is gaining support across our community as a voice of change. Tom is committed to building a better relationship between the select board and the Town Manager. Tom realizes the importance of this relationship and is committed to letting the Town Manager manage our town as directed by the Charter and to having the Select Board start providing executive leadership through the development of fiscal and operational policies. I support Tom in his bid to become a select board member for Longmeadow.

We need to elect individuals who truly demonstrate the leadership required for our future.

As a community, we can’t afford another three years political pandering; the time for leadership is now.

The choice is yours; status quo or electing a team that will Drive Change in the Right Direction.

Please Vote Foster and Lachiusa this year as your representatives on the Select Board.

Thank you for your vote.

Richard Foster, Chair, Longmeadow Select Board

Lachiusa wants your vote for Select Board

The following was submitted by Tom Lachiusa who is running for election to the Longmeadow Select Board.

As voters make their voting decision on the Select Board candidates, I ask you to consider my request for your vote.  

Having been a homeowner in Longmeadow for 16 years, and a small business owner in town for 19 years, I offer the perspective of an average taxpayer.  My wife Jeanne and I have raised four children and understand the struggles of young families and the concerns of individuals who are, or will soon, be living on a fixed retirement income.  These perspectives, combined with my track record of successfully resolving group conflicts, providing leadership during a period of transition at a local college, and bridging political divides are the reasons why I want to be your next selectman.

I believe the first and most important question facing our town is: Will the Select Board be able to follow the town charter and work cooperatively with the Town Manager?

My first priority is to support the charter and improve the relationship between the board and the Town Manager, Finance and School Committees. Many have commented to me that the board is not serving the town effectively due to infighting and selfish political grandstanding. I have listened to residents who expressed that they do not see how the board can serve the best interests of our town without a change in its membership. As a teacher, I have taught graduate classes on group work process and I have been finding solutions to group conflict for over 40 years in various positions including currently at the Hampden County Jail and in my own private practice. I will use the skills I have acquired from a career in teaching and social work to make our town government more efficient and responsive.

What I offer is the experience of a seasoned professional who has academic and professional training that will guide my decision making during times of difficulty and transition. While I was a faculty member at Springfield College, I was elected by my peers to serve on the Vision Committee that would help guide the school in its search for a new college president. After my election to this committee, the interim president appointed me to be his co-chair because he saw my commitment to the school and what I could contribute to the project. Under our guidance, the committee was able to develop a vision for the future of the college, and therefore, the job description for the person who would lead that effort. Through exhaustive research at the departmental level, we were able to examine the goals of each area of the college and merge them into a unified vision of the future of the college. From this vision, we were able to choose a president that led the college in the direction that fit with the needs of the community. I have no doubt that I will have success using similar methods to lead our town toward a better tomorrow.

Town elections are non-partisan in nature, however, since I have announced my candidacy, I have been able to build bridges between the Republican, Independent, and Democratic factions in town. The support I have garnered from leaders from all parts of the political spectrum in Longmeadow is a clear sign that, even in our current time of hyper-partisanship, there is a common belief in the need for a change in the membership of the Select Board.  Please vote for me on Tuesday June 9th.

Tom Lachiusa/ Candidate for Longmeadow Select Board

What makes a school system exceptional?

The following was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Russ Dupere, candidate for election to the Longmeadow School Committee.

What makes a school system exceptional? In my experience as a school attorney and parent, the exceptional school systems share many of the following characteristics:
  1. Leadership that creates clear short and long-term goals with input from the staff and community.
  2.  Administrators that inspire their staff to work toward meeting these goals.
  3. Consistent curriculum which is aligned throughout all schools K-12.
  4. A school climate wherein administrators, teachers, staff, and parents feel respected and valued.
  5. Teachers are provided with the time, technology, and resources necessary to provide the best education possible.
  6. Making it a priority that ALL students are treated equally and with compassion.
  7. Decisions are made in a transparent and open manner.
  8. Stakeholders' opinions are treated with respect, and are given due consideration.
  9. An atmosphere of trust and collaboration, wherein teachers and other members of the school community can provide input and recommendations for improvement.
  10. The School Committee and Board of Selectmen have an open line of communication, and work collaboratively.
  11. A community that supports education both financially and through volunteerism.
I am committed to making sure that these characteristics are present in our school system. We have an exceptional school system, and I believe we have the ability to make it an even better one.

Please vote on June 9th.
Russ Dupere (

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Meet the School Commitee Candidates

Next Tuesday, June 9 is the Longmeadow Annual Town Elections.  Polling hours are from 8 am - 8 pm at the Longmeadow Community House.

Longmeadow Community Television (LCTV) has created a series of interviews of the three candidates running for the two open seats on the Longmeadow School Committee.  These one-on-one interviews hosted by Arlene Miller provide profiles of one new candidate who has not run previously for elected office in our town as well as the two incumbent candidates.

Below are 30 minute video clips of these interviews.  In alphabetical order...

Russell Dupere

Katie Girard

Michelle Grodsky