Friday, November 25, 2016

New DPW. New Adult Center. New middle school…What are the costs?

The following article was submitted to the Longmeadow Buzz blog by Dr. Andrew Lam who is a town resident and member of the Longmeadow Finance Committee.
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There’s been much discussion in Longmeadow about the next three capital projects we’re likely to undertake: a new DPW facility, a new adult center, and a new middle school. While there’s general consensus that the DPW ranks first in urgency, the overall decision-making process has been somewhat haphazard. For example, at 2015’s fall town meeting the DPW Facility Task Force recommended a new DPW be built adjacent to Wolf Swamp fields; funds were appropriated to proceed with further study and design. Then, at 2016’s spring town meeting, a vocal group of citizens opposed this location and the plan was abandoned. Our most recent town meeting accepted Grande Meadows as the probable DPW location. Unfortunately, our indecision wasted time and money—most obviously the funds expended to study the Wolf Swamp fields location.


Also at our recent town meeting, a proposal to build a new Adult Center at Bliss Park was defeated. The need for a new Adult Center, and its location, remain hotly debated issues. Ideally, this project should be decided in conjunction with the third looming project—a new middle school—because available land and facilities in town are highly dependent on whether our two middle school buildings are renovated or combined into a new building.

Just as we shouldn’t construct new buildings without a picture of what else will be built or torn down in the next ten years, we certainly shouldn’t proceed without a clear financial plan to pay for them, either. How expensive will these projects be and can we afford them?

As a Finance Committee member for the last three years, I’ve learned a lot about these projects; and, in the event that all three are undertaken, I’d like to lay out, as simply as possible, how they might affect us financially as taxpayers, and as a town. My goal in doing so is merely to provide information, not to promote or oppose any of these projects or any alternatives.

First, a few facts. In fiscal year 2016, Longmeadow had the highest residential tax rate in Massachusetts: $24.33 per $1,000 of home value. The average home in Longmeadow costs about $320,000, so the average tax bill is about $7,786. There’s a state law that mandates the tax rate cannot exceed $25 per $1,000, and our town is on course to hit this maximum in the next 5-6 years. At that point, significant cuts to all departments would be unavoidable. All town officials, from the Town Manager to the members of the Select Board and School Committee, are well aware of this ceiling and share the goal of postponing its arrival.

Funding for capital projects like new buildings can be “debt exclusions,” which means we can borrow the money and the resulting tax increase would not be subject to the $25 per $1,000 limit.

More background. Using round numbers, our annual budget is about $60 million. Our current debt stands at approximately $48 million. We spend about $5 million annually on debt service (around 8% of the budget). Finally, one of our most important goals is to maintain our excellent Moody’s rating of Aa2, because a decline in our rating would mean higher borrowing costs.

The information that follows is based on fiscal assumptions made by our Finance Director, Paul Pasterczyk.

The approximate anticipated cost of each new building project is: DPW $15 million, Adult Center $6 million, middle school $40 million (this is the town’s portion for the middle school assuming the state’s MSBA funds half). $5 million of the DPW costs would be borne by increased water and sewer fees; therefore, all three additions would ultimately increase our debt load by about $56 million.

What would this mean for property taxes?

If we assume the DPW project starts in 2018, the Adult Center in 2019, and the middle school in 2023 (even if we gained MSBA funding approval now, construction would not begin for 5-6 years), plus a 4% interest rate for 20 year terms, then here is a simplified chart showing how each project would increase annual property tax on the average household (home value $320k).

Between 2019 and 2023, the annual tax increase remains about $217, but increases to $749 with the start of the middle school project (about a 10% increase from current taxes). It will remain near this level for several years, but the cost of all three projects will gradually decline to the figures in the final column in the last year of each loan’s 20-year term.

    - How will this affect our town budget?
    - The average annual cost over the 20-year term of each project is as follows:


Taking on debt of this magnitude always has the potential to adversely affect our Moody’s rating. To counteract this, we should strive to strengthen our town reserves through increased funding to free cash and the operational stabilization fund.

There remains much to be decided. Should the two middle schools be renovated, rebuilt, or combined into one? Should the Adult Center be renovated or rebuilt? If one new, combined middle school is built at the Williams site, would an Adult Center be well-positioned at the Glenbrook site? Would it be more prudent to push these projects farther into the future? Or even reconsider them entirely?

We don’t yet know how our town will decide to answer to these questions, but we know we’ll be best served by taking the long view and considering these projects together, rather than each in isolation. Very recently, the Select Board began contemplating the formation a permanent building committee with this goal in mind.

And yet, there’s something far more important than forming another town committee: citizen engagement. Many townsfolk were opposed to a Wolf Swamp fields DPW site; but, to a large extent, these individuals were not present at the preceding town meeting in which they could have spoken out against the DPW Task Force’s recommendation. Their opposition was heard loud and clear six months later, but we all suffered from this costly delay. The Town Manager has made increased community outreach and communication a priority, but the onus is on us, as citizens, to make the effort to attend town meetings and seek out what’s happening in Longmeadow. Because when our legislative branch is the town meeting, the quality of our government depends on all of us. 
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Andrew Lam, M.D., is a retinal surgeon, author, and member of the Longmeadow Finance Committee. He can be contacted at alam@longmeadow.org.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Why Greenwood Park was not Selected as the Preferred Site.

Read this summary to better understand why Greenwood Park is not the preferred site for a new or renovated Adult Center.
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Figure 1- Aerial View of  Greenwood Park
Hatched area shows Greenwood park land- a large % of the total parcel
Below is an excerpt from the full report issued by the Adult Center Building Committee (ACBC) chaired by Marybeth Bergeron regarding the possible selection of Greenwood Park for a renovated or new Adult Center.  This report was presented by Ms. Bergeron to the Select Board at their regular meeting on September 3, 2016.
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There were 8 potential sites investigated by the ACBC which included the following:

Greenwood Park, Turner Park Site #1, Turner Park Site #2. Wolf Swamp Road Fields, Cordis property/ Library site, Academy Drive (water tower property), Laurel Park and Bliss Park

The following criteria were used for all of these proposed sites:

Deed Restrictions, Article 97 Implications, Infrastructure, Impact on Sports Fields, Historic Implications, Conservation, Neighborhood/ Political

Here is the Greenwood Park analysis from the report:

The current Adult Center is located on this site.  The Adult Center occupies approximately 8,000 sf of the building which is an old school.  Also in the same building is the Longmeadow Parks/ Recreation Day Care Center which serves approximately 56 children as well as the after school program for 60 children. The summer camp (80 children) uses the building, along with pickle ball players, the Longmeadow Parks/ Recreation After School Program, Willie Ross School, CYO basketball, Youth basketball, Adult volleyball and karate.

Additionally the Veteran's Representative, public nurse, Town Food Bank, the Federal Meals Program is all located within the Adult Center wing of the Greenwood Center building. The building is often used by sports teams and other groups in the evenings, averaging 2-3 meetings per week.

There are two baseball fields used daily. There is a playground as well as one of the Town's pools.

Approximately 1,000 sf of the Adult Center wing is hallway, and 500-600 sf is for the bathrooms. This building is located in the very south portion of the town, and is not at a central location in our town. The seniors are "tucked away", and for many the drive to the center from the north end of the town is challenging.
  • Deed Restrictions: Unknown, must be researched 
  • Article 97 Implications: Possible - Should the town decide to construct an addition to the west of the existing building wing, Article 97 could apply. Deed research needs to be done, specifically as it relates to the extension into the park. 
  • Infrastructure: Available 
  • Impact on Sports fields: At least one and possibly both ball fields will be lost 
  • Historic Implications: None 
  • Conservation: No identified issues 
  • Neighborhood/Political: We do believe there is a constituency of people in our town who would not wish the Adult Center to move, as they are accustomed to enjoying recreational services at the existing site.  Many seniors have a high resistance to change, and this will be a challenge to overcome.
Conclusions
Although constructing an addition on the existing building which would require renovating the entire building due to code requirements is feasible (see drawing from the Dietz & Company Architects report below), we believe that the 12 to 18 month disruption of the plethora of services to the town residents would be very difficult. The renovations would require that the Federal Meals on Wheels program be turned over to East Longmeadow, the Day Care Center would have to be moved at CONSIDERABLE expense due to the State requirements (furniture bolted to floors, bathrooms in every room, etc.), the Parks/ Recreation After School program for students moved to other locations, programs for the seniors would have to be halted for lack of space at other locations in town, the CYO Youth basketball, pickle ball, Willie Ross School, etc., would be very problematic and a huge disruption for our residents. The loss of at least one ball field would affect residents.

We also believe that the resulting product (state of the art addition of brand new construction, aside a school designed in the late 60's) would not create an attractive exterior. The costs associated with a move/ termination of much needed services to the most frail in Longmeadow, in combination with the construction of the addition, would at LEAST equal the cost of building a new building elsewhere in the town.
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Here is some earlier developed information for a proposed Renovation of Greenwood Center described in the Dietz & Company Architects Report- January 15, 2016.

Figure 2- Proposed Renovation of Greenwood Center-
Dietz & Company Architects Report- January 15, 2016
(click to enlarge)

Below is a table from the Dietz & Company report comparing Advantages vs. Disadvantages of renovating Greenwood Park Center.

Table 1- Comparison of Advantages vs. Disadvantages
Dietz & Company Architects Report- January 15, 2016
(click to enlarge)
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Bottom Line: Demolishing the current Greenwood Park Center and building a new one or renovating the old building at the same site would result in a desirable outcome.  However, all of the disadvantages highlighted above by two different comprehensive studies strongly suggest that the Greenwood Park site is not a desirable site for the new Adult Center.

Here ares link to some additional information on this subject:
  1. Longmeadow Adult Center: Feasibility Study and Design Study
    Dietz and Co. Architects, Inc. January 15, 2016
  2. Update- Longmeadow Adult Center Feasibility Study,
    LongmeadowBuzz blog post by J.R. Moran, January 28, 2016
Jim Moran

Friday, October 21, 2016

Vote YES on Article 7


The following letter was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Frances Miffitt, Longmeadow Resident
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I have been a resident of Longmeadow for  more than  two decades.  I am a Senior citizen .

In years past, I voted in favor of the new High School.  I voted in favor of  the new Blinn tennis courts.  I voted in favor of the expansion of Longmeadow Shops. I voted against a new DPW on Wolf Swamp Rd. fields.   Frankly I am stunned by the opposition to a new Community Recreational  and Senior Center at Bliss Park.

The current Greenwood Park Senior Center is also located in a park.  Actually Greenwood is the smallest park in town, containing only 9 acres of land.  To expand at that location would mean encroaching on the ball fields which are used daily in the summertime.  Baseball has been played on those fields since 1945.    Greenwood Park has tennis courts, an in ground pool, a small playground , two ball fields . An outdoor walking track and  bocci court would likely be eliminated by expansion of the building  . The recreational space is very small, and services the recreational needs of the residents in the south end of town.  Although it has the same amenities as Bliss Park at 45 acres of land, Greenwood is the smallest park in town. The Greenwood Child Care center is located in the larger portion of the old school and the Park is home to day campers during the summer.

Where is the cry to save Greenwood Park? 

Locating the new Senior Center would place the facility in the center of town at Bliss Park which would be more accessible for all our senior citizens.   The location chosen is run down and neglected. It would add parking for the dog walkers and hikers that use the trails, for the ball fields and for the basketball court.  It takes away absolutely nothing from the park and only enhances the current recreational activities.

I suspect the vast majority of people who are against this, are people who have never set foot  at Greenwood Park Senior Center.  Actually they may never have set foot in a Senior Center at all!  All senior centers offer wonderful recreational activities for the senior and adult populations they service. 

This new senior center would provide recreational activities for ALL of our population, and not just seniors.   A new exercise room would be available to everyone!   The town is hoping to include a gymnasium, which is much needed by the basketball teams.  Pickle ball, volleyball would also be played there.  Perhaps the town could even offer Community Theatre! 

This would really be a community center that does nothing but improve the quality of life for young and old alike! 

Sincerely,
Frances Miffitt/ Longmeadow Resident
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The LongmeadowBuzz blog welcomes town residents who want to offer their own viewpoints.  For details see blog Guidelines.

Imagine Longmeadow being supportive of all of its citizens


The following letter was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Marjorie Morgan, Longmeadow Resident

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I have had the opportunity to see the list of people who signed the petition opposing Bliss Park as the location of a new senior center.  I read carefully the "facts" and objections. Some are legitimate concerns, and other "facts" were so far off base as to be worthy of the most convoluted conspiracy.

Many who signed are clustered near or abutting the park.  In checking the current voting list it could be said many of these folks are professionally and financially well off. Their professions indicate a secure economic status. We could guess that many belong to the Field Club or the Longmeadow Country Club. They probably attend the Symphony, and go to Stage West and the Majestic Theater. Most travel sometime during the year and vacation regularly.  You might say active Longmeadow adults.  True, most do not consider themselves old and cannot imagine being old and not continuing this lifestyle.  If they do get old, Glenmeadow is in the future... not a senior center.

It is true that a well programmed senior center with adequate space and resources is used by all economic groups.  However, for many in our community the options are not so broad.

Seniors may be limited by finances.  Many are not able to travel. Some are isolated by physical limitations and building accessibility. Some cannot attend events that are not handicapped friendly.  Travel is sometimes limited to bus availability. Some seniors can no longer prepare a meal so come to the center for the noon meal and sociability.  They rely on the Senior Center!

This group of seniors does not have the VOICE that Save Bliss Park has.  They cannot purchase signs, or stand on corners or attend night meetings.  Many are not yet computer literate.  This group of Longmeadow citizens are relying on a small committee and a positive town vote to make it happen.

Please get the FACTS.  Look at the small footprint and IMAGINE a place for seniors as well as gym and community rooms for everyone.  IMAGINE a rest room available.  IMAGINE new trees,

and IMAGINE Longmeadow being supportive of ALL their citizens!


Marjorie Morgan/ Longmeadow Resident
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The LongmeadowBuzz blog welcomes town residents who want to offer their own viewpoints.  For details see blog Guidelines.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bliss Park: The only logical place for a new Senior Center

This letter was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz blog by Julia Moulton, Longmeadow Resident
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Recently I have read and heard from a few people that have expressed their opposition to our town building a new Senior Center at Bliss Park.  As someone who regularly uses the town’s senior center for recreational activities, I have taken an interest in  the Select Board’s Adult Center Building Committee search, and have reviewed all of the documentation they provided to the Select Board. 

This committee investigated ten sites in town, including the existing site at Greenwood Park.  The location they determined is the best site for a new Senior Center is  a small, neglected corner of Bliss Park.  I have personally walked the area and agree that this somewhat abandoned area of the park is indeed in poor condition.  It is a dirt area that our dog walkers use to access the rear trails.  The field house is in poor condition.  The basketball court floods each spring.  The tree roots are damaged from the haphazard parking  all over this area.   I could immediately see the reasoning behind choosing this location. 

Locating this 3 acre project on this corner of the park would do nothing but improve the park.  It would provide parking for access to the walking trails, as well as to the ball fields and basketball court.  This location takes away nothing from the other active recreational activities at the park.  Add to that, there is a substantial buffer zone to the residential streets  that are on the north and east of the park.  To the north, there are actually around 35 acres of wooded land that will be a buffer zone.

There are over 4400 senior residents in town, and I understand that the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has determined that there will be a 30% growth by 2030 of elders in our town.  We will represent over a third of the residents.    We also want to participate in recreational activities, both indoor and outdoor.

I applaud the Park Board for taking the unanimous position to support this location.

I have often heard people say the senior center should stay where it is.  I am sure they are unaware that an expansion of that building would mean that there would be a loss of two ball fields at Greenwood PARK and it would mean that most of the open space would be parking!    Greenwood Park is a 9 acre park.  Bliss Park is a 45 acre park.  Frankly, I think it is only logical that the new Senior Center be built at Bliss Park. 
 
Julia Moulton, Longmeadow Resident 
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The LongmeadowBuzz blog welcomes town residents who want to offer their own viewpoints.  For details see blog Guidelines.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Clarification on Bliss Park Project

This letter was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz blog by Marybeth Bergeron, Chair, Adult Center Building Committee.
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I am writing today to clarify a point that is of concern to some residents in our community.

The Select Board Adult Center Building Committee has never discussed an exit road from the proposed site of the new Senior Center at Bliss Park onto Oakwood Drive, Eton Road or Farmington Road. The proposal calls for an single entrance and exit onto Bliss Road.

The committee did discuss having a crossing guard as well as a "right turn only" restriction onto Bliss Road (--> west) from the parking area.  This type of exit would be similar to that found at the north side of Longmeadow High School onto Bliss Road (--> east).  The committee also discuss shifting the primary open hours for the Senior Center in order to minimize the impact on school children walking home from school.


The town  has not as yet hired an architect or a landscape designer.

Article 7 that will be considered at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on October 25 will allow the town to hire an architect, complete engineering studies, conduct a traffic study and complete a landscape design to enhance this area of the park. 

Our vision is clear.  The proposal is for a new town building that would house a new Senior Center and Town Recreational Center that would serve all age groups.

The town needs to hire professional firms for their input and design, and hopes to engage everyone in our community for their input during this next step design phase

Marybeth Bergeron
Chair, Adult Center Building Committee

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Modest Proposal

This opinion column was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by John J. Fitzgerald, a Longmeadow town resident and member of the Longmeadow School Committee.
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Recent months have witnessed recurring discussions about what Longmeadow should do about three major concerns. Those concerns are:  the condition of the two middle schools in town, the need for a decent Senior Center and the need for a safe and strategic home for the DPW department.

The Select Board seems singularly inept in dealing with this problem. Their solution seems to be: ignore the problems. This is neither just nor adequate.

A recent development has the seniors vocalizing on behalf of taking large chunks of land at Bliss Park for a Senior Center. A number of fellow citizens have objected.

I share their concern about the destruction of Bliss Park. I think we should leave it as it is, which is a wonderful family centered park in the middle of town.

What can we do to protect Bliss Park and at the same time address the other real town wide concerns?

The answer to that question is contingent on a holistic response that speaks to the concerns of the entire town and its community.

As I see it, the seniors do need a new center which is appropriate to their needs and appropriate to the best interests of the Town of Longmeadow.

We also need a new DPW location. (The recent proposal of the DPW committee speaks to this. I have not read the full proposal.)

We also need to seriously address the needs of the Middle Schools in Longmeadow, Williams and Glenbrook.

I support the following solution:
  1. DPW to be placed at Greenwood Park Center off of Maple Road. Minimum loss of playing fields and playground area.

    This would be the site of headquarters, mechanical service areas, radio communication center, repair, etc. Garage storage areas and parking lots. Some vehicle storage and repair sites at Wolf Swamp Road near East Longmeadow line. No diminution of playing fields. Create an attractive site near Twin Hills and Field Club.
     
  2. Senior Center to be placed at Glenbrook Middle School. No diminution of playing fields. Close Glenbrook. Renovate Glenbroook for Senior Activity needs.
     
  3. Middle School situation to be remedied in the following manner.
    Place new enlarged Williams Middle School on playing fields of Williams Middle School. Construct new and larger building. Tear down old building. And then create athletic fields.


    With New Williams Middle School complete, we transfer student population of Glenbrook to Williams. Turn Glenbrook over to town for Senior Center. 
This plan addresses all the needs of the town and does so in a practical manner. All major interest groups have their needs addressed. Those with abutting real estate are protected from any harsh changes or hazards. The Commonwealth pays for most of the funding for a new middle school. We will have to do some bonding to pay for the DPW and Senior Center projects.

What do you think?  I think we will need to create a coalition to bring this three part project to pass.  But that task is far superior to just doing nothing.

Let’s get this project rolling forward!

John J. Fitzgerald

Friday, September 23, 2016

Let’s Build a New Senior Center

This opinion column was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Betsy Port, a Longmeadow town resident.
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[click image to enlarge]
Yes, we need a new building for The Longmeadow Senior Center – that is a fact! I do not know when or if it will ever be built since I do not own a crystal ball. I do know this; creating a building of 12,000 square feet within a 3.5-acre part of Bliss Parkland would be a mistake. Perhaps you can change my mind, but creating a structure on park-like land seems like an obvious problem. Traffic flow has increased over the years and Bliss Road and Laurel Street will only become busier when the construction ends at the shopping center and cars full of shoppers shop!

A Committee has been working hard all summer, holding seven meetings and discussing several sites across town. Our family received a snail-mail invitation to a September 1st meeting for neighborhood homes. We live near the wooded side of Bliss Park, but could not attend a meeting right before a long weekend. I wish we had been given more notice, but they were on deadline.

If built, the new center would be located in the southeast corner of Bliss near Oakwood. A total of 100 parking spaces would be needed and I fear over 30 trees would be cut down. These trees may not be that healthy or that green but I am a true tree hugger so I hate to loose them. If possible, I think the committee’s choice should be modified. They came up with only one option. People like to have choices. What is their second choice? Are they any other options for the residents to consider? Laurel Park is not an option in my humble opinion.

Some might say that to upgrade the structure at Greenwood Park would be costly and ill advised. Maybe the whole thing should be razed and we might build something better if we can afford to start over. It is my understanding that both Greenwood Park and Turner Park are not preferable options. The DPW project seems more urgent right now, but when can we really have room in the budget for the Senior Center? I have called the tree warden, the Park and Rec Department and some other leaders but I still have more questions than answers. Maybe I am just too crazy to think that a large structure inside a designated park is horrible to contemplate. What to me is short sighted is the way the process has moved ahead. Where are we getting the money for anything if the town has serious fiscal concerns? We need to be realists! Can we please keep the big picture in mind?

Maybe we need to rethink the whole long range plan set forth in 2001-2002. Saving our open space and green landscape was a top priority at that time, about fifteen years ago. Have our priorities changed? Do we need a Community Center instead of a Senior Center? The Community House is in the Historic District and not practical for our growing needs. As far as I’m concerned it is for voting, offices and dance classes. Should children have an opportunity to learn and share with their elders? Read the recommendations in other magazines and papers. This is the wave of the future. Where can we meet and come together as a community? Is it possible to redefine what is needed? Let’s find a peaceful and practical solution for everyone to agree on, if that is possible. I just don’t want to loose something that we can never get back!

As Joni Mitchell wrote in 1969:

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a (Senior Center), a boutique and a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museums
And charged the people a dollar and a half to see ‘em
Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone
They paved (Bliss Park) and put up a parking lot”

Betsy Port/ Farmington Avenue

Friday, September 2, 2016

Save Alex’s Bagels

This opinion column was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Alex Grant, a Longmeadow town resident.
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Mom, apple pie, fresh air, the family farm, and the small business owner.  We pay homage to all these things.  They are America.  They are unassailable.  Everyone is for them, and nobody is against.  That is what we say at every kitchen table and every rostrum.

With such widespread support, it is hard to imagine how a family farm, or a small business that is beloved in the community, could ever fail.  But it happens all the time.  Sometimes we honor the idea of something more than the thing itself.

 And so it goes with what appears to be the final chapter of Alex’s Bagels at the Big Y shopping center.  With the end of Sam and Chippy’s barber shop, the departure of Brightwood Hardware, and the impending eviction of Alex’s, it should be clear that being a landlord to small businesses is no longer part of Big Y’s plans.  For a while, Big Y had a business plan that involved running a medium-sized grocery store and collecting rent on space that it figured it could not use as profitably.

With that business decision came reliance, reliance by the small business owners and reliance by the residents of Longmeadow.  Big Y, of course, never promised to lease this space in perpetuity, but to the community it certainly seemed that it had.

The bagel shop harks back to the 1960s and 1970s, operating though three owners, each linked to the one before.  Alex might have set a world record for the longest bagel apprenticeship by working there for 19 years before taking over as owner 10 years ago.  Brightwood Hardware was there for over 50 years.  In the barber shop, you could hear tales from the 1950s as Chippy clipped your hair.

The men and women of these businesses not only rented space from a corporate landlord, they devoted the best years of their working lives to serving the residents of Longmeadow.  Making that choice meant making investments in equipment, investments in building up a clientele, investments that only made sense if the business was a long-term proposition.  That choice was a leap of faith that their loyalty to their landlord and to the community would be reciprocated.  And for two generations it was.  

They carved out niches for themselves, none more so than Alex and his predecessors.  Even today, it is a rare skill to make a real, fresh bagel that has a firm outside and a soft inside.  Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, bagel chain restaurants, and grocery stores have all tried and failed to deliver a real, New York City style bagel like Alex’s. In their pursuit to make bagels that can be made, preserved, and distributed, these corporate bakers have rendered circular bread rolls.  The work of making a traditional bagel, it seems, requires the daily toil of baking in small batches and selling the bagels not long after they emerge from the oven.

From Big Y’s corporate boardroom, all of this may seem like small potatoes.  The names of Mo, Chippy, Kimmel, Phil Grant (no relation), and Alex may mean nothing at that level.  Alex’s children who have worked there and all the other teenagers and young adults who have worked the counter and have learned the craft of bagel-making may seem remote to the important business of wringing out another percentage point of earnings growth.  But to many people in Longmeadow, the vast majority of whom walk the aisles of Big Y, these people, these families, and the work they do are part of our town.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “Man, like a tree in the cleft of a rock, gradually shapes his roots to his surroundings, and when the roots have grown to a certain size, can't be displaced without cutting at his life.”  After more than two generations, Longmeadow has shaped its roots around the bagel shop and its erstwhile neighbors.  Big Y needs to reckon with the loss of goodwill that will result from displacing Alex’s shop.

While I was on the Select Board, corporate landlords were all too happy to carry the banner of the small businessperson when it came time to consider the commercial tax rate for their properties.  Big Y and others touted the value of locally-owned small businesses like one would promote the value of motherhood, the Olympic spirit, and the United States of America.  Now Alex’s shop is an inconvenience to a larger corporate aim.  It is time for Longmeadow residents to make this eviction an even larger inconvenience for Big Y.

Alex J. Grant is a lawyer living in Longmeadow.  His email address is alex.grant68@yahoo.com .

Monday, August 15, 2016

From the Desk of Longmeadow Police Chief John Stankiewicz

The following was published in the July 2016 Longmeadow Police Department Monthly Report.
Longmeadow Police Chief- John Stankiewicz
Policing in Longmeadow is a stranger offering to pay for your coffee while standing in line at Starbucks and an intoxicated and defiant man pushing an officer in the chest.  It’s stopping a new driver for speeding and warning him to slow down or the next time he will receive a ticket and sitting in an unmarked vehicle, with the engine off, in a parking lot in 90 degree heat for hours, waiting for drug a deal to go down.

It’s your spouse asking you when you’re going to bid off the midnight shift and your 8 year old daughter calling to make sure you are safe. It’s missing your son’s Saturday soccer game and a Christmas dinner at home with your family. 

It’s also putting a compression dressing on an accident victim who has a severe laceration while re-assuring them they will be all right and being ridiculed and sworn at by a woman for arresting her husband who moments before had punched her in the face.

It’s manning a public information booth at Longmeadow Days and engaging in conversation with adults and children alike and giving a tour of the station to a group of wide eyed boy scouts. 

It’s talking to teenagers who have questions as to whether an officer can search their backpack for alcohol and answering the mundane question of a stranger; “where is a good place to eat” or “how do I get to……”?  And, the mind numbing chore of checking businesses, The Meadows and side streets at 2, 3, & 4 AM.

It’s conducting an investigation and working on leads to locate stolen jewelry that has profound sentimental value in hopes of  being able to return it to its owner and performing CPR on a 17 year old who OD’d on a lethal dose of alcohol and opiates while in the background hearing the mother’s and father’s screams of anguish and despair.

Although there has been extensive media coverage replaying the actions of overzealous officers, with more than 12,000 agencies operating in the US and more than 477,000 law enforcement officers, the number of incidences of misfeasance, although appalling, is minuscule.

A warrior one minute and a guardian the next, an officer must adapt.   With the fatal ambushes of police officers both in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, the job has changed.  Even in Longmeadow, officers are a little more cautious…. It has changed the way we patrol.  When conducting a traffic stop, officers are taking more time to assess the situation before exiting their cruiser and approaching the vehicle.  Responding to calls for service in a remote or desolate area in Town has evoked a level of vigilance that wasn’t a concern a month ago; could someone be concealing themselves or lying in wait?

Officer are reminded to check their weapons before every shift, to discuss officer safety best practices, and to rely on their tactical training that was learned in the academy and is reviewed every year during in-service training.  

Fortunately, over the last month there has been an outpouring of support from the community.  Adults, children and seniors alike have been stopping by the station and bringing in gifts of food, soft drinks and yes, even donuts.  These gestures and well wishes are humbling yet confirm that the officers and staff of the Longmeadow Police Department are professionals, are providing a valuable service and their work is appreciated by the community.