Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Single (vs. Split) Property Tax Rate for Longmeadow

Bill Low, a member of the Longmeadow Select Board shares the reasons for his vote last month to continue a single property tax rate (vs. split tax rate ) for residential and commercial property owners.

Every year the town Select Board must vote to have a single or split tax rate. The split rate creates a separate rate for residents and commercial/industrial property owners. The intent of a split rate is to shift more of the tax burden onto businesses, presumably because they make a profit, as opposed to home owners who are just supporting town services. When a City, like Springfield, with 20%-25% of the real estate classified as commercial/ industrial/ personal shifts the tax to that category, it can make a big difference to home owner’s tax costs while raising the business owners by a nominal amount. Don’t misunderstand; Springfield’s commercial tax rate is the highest in the state and, in many people’s minds, stifles new business development, but homeowners still benefit with a lower tax rate.

However, as is the case in Longmeadow with less than 5% categorized as commercial/industrial, a split tax rate has the following effect: every 1% shift to the commercial owners, raises their rates by $.25 per $1,000 of value ($525 per year on average) and reduces residential rates by only a penny, or $3.50 a year on average.

Additionally, the commercial property owners, who are landlords, pass those cost to their tenants. In the case of retail properties, leases are “net” or “triple net” (the terms are misused constantly), what’s important is; the total real estate taxes are passed on to the tenant. With office buildings, the increase is also paid by the tenant via “escalators” or “expense stops” regardless if the lease is all inclusive or a “gross lease”, the increase in any operating expense is paid by the tenant.

Regardless of whether the tax rate is split or single, the amount of tax revenue raised by a town in Massachusetts is not effected.

So, what does this shift accomplish? In 30 years in the real estate industry I have dealt with large, national companies, public real estate investment firms (REIT's) and small family owned businesses. Small family owned businesses can be put out of business by this kind of increase, while larger companies will pass this cost to the consumer. In the case of a town like Longmeadow, it’s a lose-lose proposition.

William H. Low
Longmeadow Select Board

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Another Select Board Member Weighs in on the SOI Submission

Mark Gold, a member of the Longmeadow Select Board sent the following letter to fellow town residents who have recently asked him to support and approve an updated Statement of Interest to renovate the existing middle schools or build a new school(s) or a combination of both.

Dear Longmeadow Resident,

Thank you for your note asking me, and the rest of the Select Board, to support the School Committee’s middle school Statement of Interest (SOI) to be submitted to the Mass School Building Authority (MSBA).  I believe that there is much about the MSBA’s school project consideration process that was learned from our high school project, and I think it’s important that residents remember what happened with that project.
At the time the high school SOI was submitted, town residents were told, much like we are being told now, that the MSBA received many applications each year, that their waiting list for projects was long, and that it would be several years before the Longmeadow High School project was accepted for action.  It was a short time later that the MSBA notified the school committee that they had accepted the Longmeadow SOI and were ready to move forward with a project.  At the time, the Longmeadow School Committee placed the following statement on their website, a statement at remains posted today:

“…Longmeadow High School was deemed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) as a school in need of immediate attention. The MSBA has committed millions of dollars to Longmeadow to assist in the corrective action determined through the feasibility study process.  However, this money comes with strict guidelines. Once the MSBA has approved the project funding scope (scheduled for March 2010), Longmeadow has only 120 days from that date to pass the debt exclusion at Town Meeting in April and at the polls in June. If the town votes the motion down, we will not have a second chance and the MSBA will move on to one of the 400 other towns in need of assistance.  Longmeadow will be placed in the back of line and have to start the process all over again. At that point, there is no guarantee that we will receive funding from the state.” 

The fact that the town was not ready to move forward would be overwhelmed by those who insisted we must move forward with all deliberate speed least we lose the opportunity for partial state funding.

So, in 2009, even when town residents had not sorted through the project details, the school committee moved forward.  Lost in the memory of many residents it the fact that the MSBA’s analysis of the project was that the Longmeadow high school should be renovated, not replaced.  This conclusion was described in a letter dated November 10, 2009 to Longmeadow School Superintendent E. Jahn Hart that stated, “The MSBA and its Consultant have believed that the Longmeadow High School has strong potential for renovation, and the conclusions of your feasibility study have not substantially altered that view.”  On November 16, 2009, just a few days after that letter was received, a hastily gathered delegation of School Committee members, along with State Representative Brian Ashe, visited the MSBA to convince them that a renovation project was inappropriate.   Armed with letters from Congressman Neal, State Senator Candara and others, the rest, as they say, is history.   These letters and minutes of the meeting are now part of the public record.

It was the outcome of that November 16, 2009 meeting between a few “new school” proponents and the MSBA that convinced me that the current argument that the MSBA will help the town find the most appropriate solution to the middle school issue is incorrect at best, and misleading at worst.  The premature submission of an SOI will simply allow those with connections to the MSBA to dictate the direction of the project(s).  The proper methodology, in my opinion, for determining the forward path in this effort is for the town, led by its elected leaders on the School Committee and Select Board, to develop a single proposal for addressing the middle school situation and present that single solution to the MSBA for state assisted funding.
Submitting an SOI without first establishing a consensus on a single forward plan is, in my opinion, putting the cart before the horse.  Additionally, we should not be submitting an SOI in anticipation of not receiving state approval “for several years”.  By doing so, we’re wasting our time and the time of the MSBA.  I am convinced that a properly developed plan, that demonstrates clear and compelling need AND community support, will receive state support and funding in a timely manner.

At the current time I do not believe that a consensus has been reached with respect to any of the following issues:
  1. Whether it is appropriate to repair either or both of the current schools or to replace one or both schools. 
  2. If the decision is to build new, whether or not to combine our two middle schools to a single school or maintain the current two-school structure
  3. Where we would put a single school, on the Glenbrook campus on the Williams Campus
  4. Whether there is sufficient town support to fund the plan that is developed.
Throughout this process, please be assured that I agree that current physical condition of the Longmeadow middle schools merit the attention of our town leaders and residents.  I am familiar with the details of the buildings’ shortcomings as described in architectural studies and reports, but have not participated in discussions on the optimum resolution of those shortcomings.  As Select Board member I will be asked to approve the submission of an SOI to the MSBA.   To my understanding, that document has not yet been written, yet it appears to have the support of a number of residents who also do not know what is contained in that document, what assistance it asks for, or what information it conveys.   My decision to vote in favor of submitting an SOI to the MSBA for financial support to addressing the shortcomings of the Longmeadow middle schools will, to a very large extent, depend on what information that SOI contains, and what actions it seeks.  To ask the MSBA to identify the best way to address the shortcomings of the Longmeadow middle schools is, in my opinion, inappropriate.

Again, my thanks for writing to me on this important topic.  My goal is to meet the expectations of the majority of the residents while providing for the future of our middle school facilities.  I have every reason to believe that we can and will meet both of the objectives of that goal. 

Mark Gold
Longmeadow Select Board

Select Board member expresses position on the Middle School(s) SOI

An open letter by Selectman Richard Foster in response to citizens who have requested his view of an SOI (statement of interest) submission to the state regarding a future middle school project in Longmeadow....
As a Select Board member I am tasked with establishing policy and direction for our entire community. We accomplish this task by acquiring an understanding of past actions taken by our community and guidance obtained from a patchwork assembly of policies, by-laws and general laws used for the management of communities across the Commonwealth. The greatest disservice I could provide to our community would come from being myopic in my decision-making process. In reviewing the history of our community there has been a very clear bias towards our schools stimulated by well-meaning, but often misinformed electorate.

In 1986 the Select Board brought before the town a warrant article to replace our severely deteriorated DPW complex. The price at that time to rebuild this structure was less than $3,000,000. This warrant article was disapproved at our town meeting and never brought before the electorate again. Ironically, in less than two years from that date, our Select Board recommended our community authorize millions of dollars’ worth of work to be performed on Center School.  Our DPW complex still needed replacement, but the Select Board and our community simply turned their backs on this critical need and concentrated on more popular “low hanging fruit” projects.  Our High School, which was recently replaced because it was “worn out” was originally constructed 25 years after the construction of our DPW complex. Again, as a community, we abandoned the other needs in our community and placed a school project ahead of everything.  Presently 97.54% of our General Fund debt in our community is for school projects. We have outstanding school debt of $42,190,000 which will not be totally paid off until 2041.  One would think there would be public outcry claiming dereliction of duty by the Select Board for allowing our DPW complex to deteriorate to its current state.  Instead, I receive emails telling me to do my job and perform my civic duty by approving an SOI. Ironically, when I conferred with individuals in our community who have experience with the SOI process and the work required for public approval, their opinions are unanimous. They all say, “We are not ready at this time for the approval of an SOI for the replacement of our middle schools.”  We have individuals in our community with intimate knowledge of this entire process telling me we are not ready and we have school committee members and residents with limited or no knowledge of this process encouraging me to do my civic duty by approving an SOI. Our school committee has been briefed by these knowledgeable individuals who said Longmeadow is not ready for this submission, and yet, they continue to lobby for this approval while not taking the advice of those who are experienced in this process.

At a recent Select Board meeting I presented a briefing on our water and sewer systems. In this briefing I demonstrated that during the winter months nearly 50% of our sewage flow being sent to Bondi Island is coming from infiltration and inflow and not being generated by our water usage. This comes from leaking pipes and surface water being deposited into our sewer system. Every homeowner in our community is paying for this waste. This could be corrected with ample funding. Some of the newest pipes in our system are 50 to 75 years old. Is anyone ready for a $20,000,000 to $40,000,000 override to work on our sewer system? Or perhaps the same amount for our failing water distribution system? We could easily expend another $15,000,000 on sidewalks replacement, not to mention the staggering amount of money that we could be spending annually on our roadways and parking lots. These estimates are from current engineering studies. The reality of our current form of government is that prioritization of projects is ignored when a special interest single-issue group can override decisions made by the Select Board at our town meetings.  Even with a critically flawed project prioritization system, no one would have ever replaced our High School before replacing our crumbling DPW complex and yet that is exactly what we as a community did. This is the result of single-issue special interest groups overlooking and/or ignoring the overall needs of our community and voting to support issues which are often not being recommended by those elected to represent the best interest of our entire community.

Our school committee talks about the physical needs of our schools, and yet, last year they ignored the recommendations of our Superintendent, Town Manager, Town Chief Financial Officer, and the Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations for the Schools by supporting full funding of tuition-free Full Day Kindergarten as the highest need of the school district while rejecting money-saving proposals offered by our School management team. Instead of supporting the care of our schools, they recommended the adoption of a discretionary program which took hundreds of thousands of dollars away from the town and away from the funding sources used to improve the physical condition of our schools and other town properties while only benefiting approximately 150 families. This was not a onetime removal of these funds, it was a permanent transfer of these funds from discretionary spending to fixed cost. It must be noted that the Chair of the School Committee who was a member of the budget negotiation team did not support the actions of the school committee. Instead she submitted and recommended a phased approach for providing tuition-free Full Day Kindergarten, but this was rejected by some members of the School Committee in favor of their proposal of 100% funding this program immediately. The 100% now funding proposal was not recommended or supported by any of the town or school administrative or management staff.

Will we move forward with an SOI on our middle schools? Yes, when the time is right, and when we as a community, are ready to move forward. Until then, I will continue to do what I was elected to do for our community. To be thorough, impartial, and fair in my evaluation of the needs of our entire community and strive each day to make our community better than it was yesterday. Believe me, your Select Board is here to support all of the needs of our community in a fair and equitable manner.

Richard Foster

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.

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. 

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.
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.

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.
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.
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)
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

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! 

Frances Miffitt/ Longmeadow Resident

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

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

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
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 
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.

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.
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