Sunday, June 21, 2020

Our Town Needs Article #14 to Pass at the Annual Town Meeting


This post was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Mark Gold, member of the Longmeadow Select Board.  It is a series of slides created by Mr. Gold with information about Article #14.   Copies of these slides will be handed out at the Annual Town Meeting on June 23.

The Select Board at an earlier meeting this month voted to approve for this article to be added to the Meeting Warrant.



Click charts to enlarge





Please vote YES on Article 14.

by Mark Gold, Longmeadow Select Board

Friday, June 19, 2020

Vote YES on Article #14





This post was written by Jim Moran who has followed and written about Longmeadow town finances on  the LongmeadowBuzz blog for many years.






Many of the discussions on Longmeadow social media and elsewhere focus on the headline that Longmeadow has the highest tax (mil) rate in MA. Little attention is paid to the fact that there are 46 other towns in MA that have significantly higher average single family tax bills vs. Longmeadow.  

For example, the town of Weston has an average tax bill that is more than twice that for Longmeadow but Weston's tax rate is only 12.83 vs. 24.21 for Longmeadow.

Click to enlarge chart

It is also interesting to note that the rate of increase of the average tax bill from FY2000 --> FY2020 for Longmeadow vs. other towns in the area as well as eastern Massachusetts (see chart below).

Click to enlarge chart

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Did you know that average Longmeadow property taxes have increased only ~4% /year for the past 20 years? Tax bills in many towns in eastern MA including Weston and Lexington have increased at significantly higher rates (see table above).
     
     
  2. Did you know that the Longmeadow tax rate has decreased a number of times in recent years but average tax bills increased at the same time?
     
  3. Did you know that if the average Longmeadow assessed property value decreased that taxes will still increase? 
     
  4. Did you know if the town doubled the tax (mil) rate for local businesses, it would deliver very little tax relief to home owners?  This is because Longmeadow's total property assessment is primarily residential (97%/ 3%).
      
  5. Did you know that the Proposition 2½ tax (mil) rate cap of $25/1000 is an arbitrary number established almost 40 years ago (1983)?
     
  6. Did you know that Longmeadow is 97% residential/ 3% commercial and a total assessed value over $2 billion? Most new growth in assessment value comes from home improvement not new home/ business development.
     
  7. Did you know if the current COVID-19 situation results in a significant downturn in the economy and decrease in property values, the town could be forced to reduce taxes resulting in a significant reduction in services?
ARTICLE 14. To see if the Town will vote to petition the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to permit the Town, subject to approval at a town-wide referendum vote, to exempt the Town of Longmeadow from the requirements of paragraphs (b), (d), and (e) of Section 21C of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 59 by adding paragraph (f) as follows: 

(f) The local appropriating authority of any city or town may, by two-thirds vote, seek voter approval at a regular or special election to accept this paragraph f, thereby rejecting the limit set forth in paragraph (b) and not be subject to it provided however that the question submitted shall be as follows:

''Shall the (city/town) of ___ adopt paragraph f of MGL Chap 59 section 21C thereby rejecting the 2.5% of assessed market value tax ceiling limit set forth in paragraph b of MGL Chap50 Sec 21C?

Yes ___ No ___"; and provided, further, that said question shall be deemed approved if a majority of the persons voting thereon shall vote ''yes''. or in other ways modifying Chapter 51 section 21C to affect this local exemption from the 2.5% of assessed market value tax ceiling limit, or take any other action relative thereto.

This warrant article allows the Town to request from the Massachusetts legislature the option to allow towns to waive the tax ceiling imposed by Proposition 2-1/2 if property values drop to a level that would cause the local tax rate to exceed the current maximum allowable rate. Such a decline in property values would not allow the Town budget to sustain services in Longmeadow. Even if this requested legislation is enacted, the town of Longmeadow would have to accept the option by voting “yes” at both a town meeting (2/3 vote) and a referendum ballot of a town-wide election.

Become an informed voter.

Vote YES on Article 14 at the Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday so that the town has the tools it needs to navigate difficult times ahead.  Remember a YES vote does not increase taxes or the tax rate.


by Jim Moran/ 40 year Longmeadow Town Resident

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Spending Longmeadow's Tax Dollars in a Responsible Manner




The following letter was shared by Select Board member, Mark Gold who wanted to provide some insight as to how financial decisions are being made for the town.
______________________________________________

Here's my response to the ten or more people who have asked for two more pickleball courts at the new Longmeadow Adult Center

I appreciate your note, and your taking the time to write to the Select Board members.  I think it's important for residents to understand the basis for my concerns about the addition of two more pickleball courts to the design of the Longmeadow Adult Center, concerns that are neither an attack on seniors (I am one) nor on the need for additional recreational activities in town for seniors, but rather one of scope creep and funding process.  The basis for my concern is as follows:

The town was advised of a design for the Adult Center - along with ancillary facilities.  Based on that design (and some of the seniors were the most adamant that we stick to the design as presented at town meeting), the town appropriated funds to build that facility.  The design that was offered and agreed upon DID NOT have four pickleball courts.  I understand that there is a group of people in town who, like you, believe we need additional pickleball courts, but what they need to understand is that the elected and appointed officials in town are also hearing from others who want more (pick one): baseball fields, tennis courts, softball fields, soccer fields and two new schools (not to mention Library facilities, road repairs, sidewalk repairs and the like).  Funding is limited and the fact that there may be contingency funds left over in the Adult Center project does not approve those funds to be spent on pickleball courts, or in fact, to be spent at all. Who's to say that other groups don't believe we should construct an outdoor bocce ball court or shuffleboard court or any one of a number of outdoor recreational activities using unspent "contingency" funds?  My fiduciary responsibility is to assure that the building as designed gets built for the lowest price in the highest quality manner, and contingency funds are specifically for that use - to assure we can build what we said we would - no less, but also no more.  The offer of the "Friends of the Adult Center" to assist in the capital costs of these pickleball courts cannot influence me in conducting my fiduciary responsibility to the 11,000 voters in Longmeadow who approved financing for a very specific design of the Adult Center.
 

LONGMEADOW ADULT CENTER DESIGN


If the need for additional pickleball courts is as critical as stated, their construction will be vetted and prioritized against other needs in town.  Funding for recreational facilities is available through the Community Preservation fund as well as our Capital Planning process.  Even the town Building Committee has recognized that they currently have a "one bid" price for construction of these courts that includes several project related percentage add-ons for the General Contractor and the Owner's Project Manager.  One should also note that state law (chapter 30B) requires competitive bidding on projects such as two additional pickleball courts - something that is clearly NOT integral to the construction and opening of the Adult Center as proposed and funded by town meeting.  One of the letters I received in support of the additional pickleball courts was written by a resident of Enfield - asking us to spend our money on facilities they benefit from. 

I do not want to leave you with the impression that my opposition to these courts at this time is hiding behind "process".  My concern is for scope creep and funding items that did not, and may not, have the support of those who are paying the bill.  I strongly support providing facilities in town for everyone to be able to exercise in the way that meets their needs, but I'll continue to watch the dollars that the town voters have entrusted us with to build the adult center they were promised.  

Regards,
Mark Gold/ Longmeadow Select Board

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ken Taylor- Candidate for Re-election to the Longmeadow Planning Board

This post was submitted by Ken Taylor, current member of the Longmeadow Planning Board and who is running for re-election in the upcoming Annual Town Elections on June 16
___________________________________________


I am Ken Taylor and am running for re-election to the Longmeadow Planning Board.  I have been a town resident for 52 years and both of my children have graduated from the town school system.  I am a graduate Engineer from the WNEC University and am a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Massachusetts.  In my work career I was a Project Engineer and Forensic Metallurgist.
I served on the Water and Sewer Commission for 21 years prior to the town changing to Town Manager style.

I have served on the Planning Board for 13 years.  I love Longmeadow and am aware of the need to provide guidance to the natural, historic and cultural resources.  Since I moved here, I have seen Longmeadow change from a town with open fields to one which is fully developed.

The most important issue facing the town is the proposed Gas Pumping / Metering station on the Longmeadow Country Club grounds.  The Planning Board has had many public meetings resulting in a series of by-laws that will hopefully stop the installation.  Another issue will be town finances.  The current tax base cannot support all the services the residents want.  Any new developments that could provide more tax revenues will come before the Planning Board.  Other issues will be the Water Tower property, the former Christian Science Church redevelopment, the re-use of the former Synagogue on Williams Street, the possible consolidation of the Middle School and the use of those properties. 

The recent accomplishments of the Planning Board are the Brewer-Young Mansion zone change and commercial development, the Dwight Road Medical project, the Willie Ross School expansion, the Pride gas station development, and the Longmeadow Shops expansion.

By definition the Planning Board has the responsibility to guide the development of the Town in the best interest of all its residents. The Planning Board plays an important role in developing the visions for future growth and preservation of the community by listening to the public for opinions and comments concerning the welfare and appearance of the town’s residential appeal and formulating rules and by-laws in an effort to maintain the unique character of Longmeadow.

I feel that my education and work experience will continue to be of great assistance in evaluating proposals from a different viewpoint as I work with the others on the Planning Board and coordinating with other Boards for the betterment of all residents in this lovely town of ours.

I ask for your vote on Election Day, Tuesday, June 16.

Thank you.

Ken Taylor

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Technology Moderates Economic and Personal Impact of Sudden Stoppage and Social Distancing

This following article was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz by Longmeadow resident Peter Landon.
___________________________________

Technology Moderates Economic and Personal Impact of Sudden Stoppage and Social Distancing

In reflecting on our COVD-19 containment and mitigation strategy (flattening the curve) and the important role of social distancing, we need to be thankful that today's computer, mobile and cloud technologies are in place, to facilitate so many important activities of daily life.
 
Online education (virtual learning model), online purchases, work from home, streaming entertainment, online tax filing and online social sites, all blunt the negative impact, of the sudden stoppage in service and manufacturing industries.

A thirty percent increase in internet activity has been handled well, so far, by our digital pipes, fiber networks and airwaves (wireless).
 
Zoom meeting services has allowed governance of businesses, not for profits and government to continue online and with continued public input in many cases.

The Courts’ wheels of justice will continue remotely according to Massachusetts Chief Justice Ralph Gants. He has asked the courts to unleash the creativity, adaptability and imagination of a MASH unit in times of war. 

Many new technologies, many of which had ignored, are facilitating online connectivity. Just this weekend our friend celebrated his 92nd birthday remotely on ZOOM Media, with 72 attendees from all over the world, including singing and dancing! 

Unlike pandemics of past generations, our digital technologies have underpinned the release our ever-increasing biotechnology prowess to locate solutions to treat and vaccinate, at breakneck speed. Even better than our response to Ebola a decade ago. None of these technologies were available for the devastating 1918-1920 pandemic (Spanish Flu) that killed an estimated 100 million worldwide including 650,000 in the United States.

Peter Landon
Longmeadow resident

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

SO LONG FAREWELL

This following article was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz by Betsy Port.
_________________________________________


It’s sad to loose a local paper. After 50 years, the printing of The Longmeadow News is not longer profitable. Last year, The Reminder Publications took over ownership of The Westfield News Group. Both The Enfield Press (with roots back to 1880) and our town paper are now history. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and relive some special moments. We have come a long way in half a century.


The first man had walked on the Moon a month before. It was the week of The Woodstock Music Festival. On Wednesday, August 20th 1969 the first issue of The Longmeadow News hit the stores. The cost was a reasonable 15 cents and the paper was full of advertising. Early stories featured a section called Nature Walk and articles concerning local volunteers and a soldier returning from Vietnam. There is no mention of the huge music festival. Meals-on-Wheels were provided by The Friendly Steak and Sundae Shop on Longmeadow Street near St. Mary’s Church. Kimmel’s and Brightwood Hardware were buying ad space along with businesses in Enfield, Ct. and the city of Springfield. I learned that our town did not have a local post office in 1969, but wanted one. An editorial concerning dress codes at the High School reminds us how times have changed. Detailed rules for each gender are considered comical now. The girls could not wear pants and the boys could not wear blue dungarees. Someone was actually expelled from LHS for long hair, and it was not a female.

 


Why has our hometown paper closed operations? I blame the Internet. Younger folks don’t have time to stop by CVS or a gas station to buy an issue for 50 cents. Feature stories were available on-line either on the Longmeadow News Facebook page or on other news feeds. Where will we get the news on local crimes and misdemeanors? The Police and Fire Logs will possibly be moved to another site, I hope. Will the town website or alternative website LongmeadowMA.org change to accommodate important information?  Where will we see the recent list of scholars on The Honor Roll or what the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are doing to help others? Where will the local library and Senior Center list activities? The weekly calendar was extremely helpful for those of us who subscribed and looked forward to delivery of the paper every Thursday. All I have now are questions with no answers. I just feel sad…like an old friend will be gone.


If you have the time, I recommend a visit to The Storrs Library to read about the good ‘ole days. Original issues of the paper from 1969 to recent issues are bound together by year. All you need to do is ask at the Reference Desk and they will retrieve a volume for you. It has been a wonderful twenty years as a columnist at this paper. It was a great way for me to express my thoughts and meet people. The articles provided a platform for issues to be discussed and analyzed. From articles about historic preservation, parkland to town meetings, from school expansion and construction to traffic problems - I enjoyed interviewing interesting local personalities. We will all fondly remember the feeling of reading The Longmeadow News as we sipped a cup of coffee and learned what was going on around here. I wonder what will come next? There is a need for improved communication in this community and the loss of the printed word will not help us in the predicament we are in. Everyone seems cut off from each other in the winter months, and then spring and summer we get so busy with outdoor life like school events, sports, gardening and traveling. I pray that we will all reach out to each other and find ways to share information. In Colonial Times there was a Town Crier, but now there is the grapevine…. We can no longer say “ I read it in The Longmeadow News.” Thanks to the editors, graphic designers and staff. I have met some wonderful people along the way.


Upcoming Dates to Remember in 2020:

March 31st     Park & Rec Forum on Open Space
                     At the High School 7 pm

April 4th        Spring Clean Up at Laurel Park 10am – 2 pm
                    Please volunteer your time – we need you!

April 13th      Conway School begins Master Plan for Laurel and Bliss Parks

May 12th       Town Meeting 7 pm at the High School

May 16-17th  Long Meddowe Days Weekend on the Town Green

June 16th       Town Election 8 am to 8 pm

 

by Betsy Port, Longmeadow resident


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Rapidly Increasing Cost of Trash in Longmeadow

Mark Gold, Longmeadow Select Board member shares some background cost information about Longmeadow's trash program and the reasons for the implementation of the new standardized 35 gallon containers.
_____________________________________________

 

There’s been a lot of discussion about Longmeadow’s new trash containers, and I want to respond to those who are unhappy with the decision to implement these 35 gallon containers.  I hope you’ll come away from this with an understanding, if not agreement, that our growing costs of trash disposal was something that had to be implemented.

 






First, some background:  The cost of disposing of Longmeadow’s trash has three components:
  1. $650,000 per year to pick-up the trash at each of the 5500 residents in town and haul the trash to the disposal site.  We’re in the 2nd year of a five year contract with Waste Management services to provide these services.
  2. $293,000 (budgeted) to dispose of our trash.  We pay a different company $75 per ton to dispose of our trash.  This contract is based on competitive bidding, and the current contract was awarded to a company who hauls our trash out of the area for landfill.   The cost of disposal has increased over 33% in the past three years (it was $220,000 in 2017).  These costs are variable, in that the more we have to dispose, the more we pay, and the less we dispose, the less we pay.
  3. The balance of the $1,188,431 Sanitation / Recycling budget for 2020 consists of staff and direct costs associated with running the program, running the recycling center, paying for disposal of yard (and leaf) waste, and other expenses.  In general, these costs are not impacted by the amount of trash we generate.
The sanitation budget also has revenue of $ 285,000 from dumping fees, bag sales, and the sale of recycling goods (both curb-side and bulk recycling from the recycling center).  Actual curb-side recycling brings in about 10% of this total.  Although the curb-side recycling doesn’t result in a lot of income it does avoid the $75 per ton of disposal costs.  Despite what you might have read about the weakened global market for recycled goods, in Longmeadow, recycling still pays.

The information presented above is to provide background to the trash container decision. The 33% (over three years) increase in the cost of trash disposal is the highest increase of any component in the Town’s $65 million budget. Not only is the cost per pound of trash that we dispose of going up each year, but the total number of pounds of trash has also been increasing, and the amount of material we’ve been recycling has been decreasing.  Trash disposal quantities were up 5% in FY 2019 over FY 2108  (3598 tons vs. 3403 tons) and are up another 6% for the first three months of this year vs. the 2019 numbers.  At the same time, recycling quantities are down.  Paper and cardboard recycling is down 10 tons in 2018 compared to 2017 and glass/plastic recycling was down 2% in 2018 vs. 2017 and another 4% in 2019.


Our recycling commission identified that there are numerous town residents that have been routinely exceeding the 35-gallon weekly disposal cap that has been in place for over 10 years.  There were several alternatives considered to bring our trash disposal costs into compliance with existing by-law limitations.  Most of the alternatives had a “trash enforcement” patrol in one form or another, and that just isn’t practical.  Our trash haulers haven’t the time to be the enforcement group and it’s not appropriate for the police to be enforcing trash regulations.  So, in order to address the rising cost of trash disposal, the recycling commission proposed the town pursue a State of Massachusetts grants to underwrite the cost of purchasing uniform trash containers for all residents.  That grant required the contaners be 35 gallons in size.  It’s the wave of the future.  These 35-gallon containers will simultaneously limit the amount of trash that is disposed and encourage increased recycling.


One complaint I heard is that Springfield residents get a 55-gallon container.  But Springfield residents also get charged a $90 per year supplemental trash fee.  As a Select Board member, I felt it was more equitable to provide a uniform 35-gallon container to every household than impose a trash fee on everyone in town.  $90 per year will buy a lot of supplemental blue bags for those who dispose more than 35-gallons of trash in a week.
 

So I ask that you give the new containers a try.  The regulations on disposal haven’t changed, we’re just making it difficult for households to exceed that 35-gallon per week limit.  We’re going to be evaluating the impact of these on our disposal costs and recycling tonnage.  Based on the implementation of uniform containers in other communities, we expect this to provide the cost control for this part of our budget that’s essential for every line item.

Mark Gold, Longmeadow Select Board

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Request to Support Congressional Action against Gas Pipeline

This post was submitted by Michele Marantz, Chair- Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group who is looking for support by town residents regarding opposition to the Gas Pipeline + Metering Station in Longmeadow.

_______________________________________________

Dear LPAG Members:

Recently several LPAG members met with Congressman Neal in his State Street office  to ask him for help in blocking the Longmeadow meter station.  In response, Congressman Neal generously offered to intervene with FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) on behalf of the Town of Longmeadow, informing FERC that the site for the meter station is ill-advised.

In order to intervene effectively, Congressman Neal requested that we send him a statement of opposition from the Longmeadow Select Board.  In this regard, we have recently learned that the Select Board will be voting on a statement of opposition this Monday.

Here's where you come in:  Over the week-end and during the day on Monday, please call or email 1, 2, or all 3 of the following Select Board members, telling them that you would like them to approve a statement of opposition to the project.  (The other two members, Marc Strange and Mark Gold, are already on record as being opposed.)

Marie Angelides                mangelides@longmeadow.org
Richard Foster                     rfoster@longmeadow.org
Tom Lachiusa                     tlachiusa@longmeadow.org

(If calling on Monday, call the Select Board Secretary at 413  565-4110.)

Here's what I'm going to write.  Feel free to send the same message or add your own thoughts:
_______________________________

Dear __________________,

I'm a Longmeadow voter who has learned that this Monday, October 21, the Select Board intends to vote on a statement of opposition to the proposed Longmeadow metering station/pipeline project.


I'm writing to request that you vote "yes" on this statement of opposition to ensure our town's future and protect the health and safety of our residents.
Sincerely,

_______________________________
  
Please make sure to do this!  All of our state and federal legislators rely on a statement of opposition from our local governing board in order to effectively intervene in this matter.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Michele Marantz, Chair
Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group
longmeadowpipelineawareness@gmail.com

Monday, September 2, 2019

Letter to the Editor- Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group

This LTE was submitted to LongmeadowBuzz by Michele Marantz, Chair, Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group....
_________________________________________________

On behalf of the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group, I’d like to thank the 259 registered voters who attended the August 20th Special Town Meeting to cast a near-unanimous vote (3 dissensions) banning the construction of any industrial gas facility in a Longmeadow residential zone.


By voting to ban such a facility, the voters also expressed their opposition to the attachment of a high-pressure 200 psi pipeline that would transport gas north through densely populated neighborhoods into a Springfield residential area.


We would also like to publicly thank the Longmeadow Planning Board whose members have consistently listened to our concerns over the past six months—and have responded to those concerns. 

The Planning Board’s belief that “…these facilities have no business being located in, or adjacent to, residential neighborhoods, close to schools and playgrounds” mirrors our position regarding the health, safety, and economic risks associated with needless pipeline expansion.

We’re grateful that our Planning Board members understand their mandate to protect Longmeadow and are willing to take a public stand toward retaining the residential integrity of our community.

Michele Marantz, Chair
Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group
Longmeadow  01106

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Vote YES on Article #1 at Tonight's Special Town Meeting

When I first heard of the proposed gas metering station on Longmeadow Country Club I did not pay much attention- in fact I did not know exactly where it was located.  As the project progressed I felt that I needed to learn more about the location and its proximity to my home.  So I consulted the Town’s online official GIS (Geographic Information System) which provides town residents with lots of information.

Figure 1: Proposed Columbia Gas Metering Station

Figure 2: Impacted Area- One Mile Radius
I learned the following:
  1. My home is located only ¾ mile from the proposed facility.
  2. A 1 mile radius of the proposed facility includes
    (east-west) from Frank Smith Road to almost Route 91
    (north-south) from Williams Street into Enfield CT
  3. There are 500+ homes (not counting the large number in Enfield, CT within this one mile radius of the proposed gas metering station.
  4. There are 4 schools (Wolf Swamp ES, Glenbrook MS, Center ES and Willie Ross School within this 1 mile radius.
  5. There is 1 school- (Wolf Swamp Road ES) within 1500’ of the proposed facility.
  6. There are 20 homes within 500 feet of the proposed facility.
  7. There are 5 homes within 200 feet of the proposed facility.
  8. There is 1 school (WSR) with 1500 feet of the proposed facility
This Columbia Gas metering station is a commercial industrial facility which should not be allowed in a residential zoned area of town.

I am in support of the proposed new bylaw and urge my fellow residents to vote YES on Article #1 at tonight's Special Town Meeting at Longmeadow High School.

Jim Moran
48 Avondale Road