Friday, May 5, 2017

Vote YES on Article 31

 

Marybeth Bergeron, long time town resident and current chairperson of the Adult Center Building Committee shares her thoughts on Article 31 that will be considered by town residents during night #2 of the Annual Town Meeting.
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It has been said for the past decade, that baby boomers will change the way people live the last years of their productive lives.  As one of the baby boomers I agree.   Many of the Longmeadow older residents I know continue to play tennis, exercise daily, or go to the Jewish Community Center to swim.  When I attend learning opportunities at Storrs Library, I am impressed that the vast majority of people there are older residents of our town.  Vibrant and active, our residents seek out opportunities to live out their lives healthy, active and engaged.

So, I write today as the Chairman of the Adult Center Building Committee to encourage you to attend the SECOND  night of the Town Meeting on May 10th, and support the decision made by the Adult Center Building Committee and the Select Board to seek funds for architectural and design  of a new senior center at Greenwood Park under article 31 of the warrant.

ARTICLE 31- To see if the Town will vote to transfer from available funds in the treasury, the sum of $250,000.00, or a greater or lesser sum, for the purpose of funding Architectural and Engineering Services for the design of a new and/or renovated Adult Center at Greenwood Park, or take any other action relative thereto.

Our committee had submitted  to the Select Board four potential sites that might work.  Additionally, the original architect submitted a plan through the town manager which is called the “Greenwood Master Plan”.  That plan has been rejected by both the Select Board and the Adult Center Building Committee for many reasons.  That  Master Plan is not longer on the table, but the other four locations need to be reevaluated by an architect for a dedicated building for our senior residents.

The facility also services not only our senior residents needs, but also the Town nurse, the Veteran’s Agent, the Food Bank, and all of the Social Service Outreach in our town. Additionally the building is used after hours by various committees and groups, all of which we expect would  to continue in a new adult center.

The residents in Longmeadow represent one third of our population.  This is  tremendous growth in the past five years, and  that demographic  will increase through 2030. This growth indicates that the trend across our country of “aging in place” is also true in Longmeadow.

Our existing senior center is not large enough to accommodate the hundreds of people that currently use the site daily, nor the participation of the increasing numbers of senior residents that  is expected. The building was a school, built for children.

You will recall that at the Town Meeting in October 2016, our residents spoke loudly and clearly that they wanted the Adult Center to remain at Greenwood.     We heard you.  If Greenwood  is where our residents want the senior center, we believe it may be a challenge, but it is do-able. 

In order to proceed, the town needs approval of article 31, in order to secure the services of a building architect and a landscape architect.    We cannot move this needed project forward without design funds.

Aging is a gift and a privilege.  There are some  people that will never have the gift of  aging.  So,  as community, let us age gracefully and with dignity…… together .

Vote YES on Article 31.

Marybeth Bergeron


Upcoming Two Night Annual Town Meeting



Below is a LTE from Select Board chair, Marie Angelides with some comments about next week's two night Annual Town Meeting.






   
Tuesday May 9th and Wednesday May 10th Longmeadow is having a two night town meeting. This year there are too many important issues to be appropriately discussed and voted on in one night.

This year the Select Board and School Committee worked together on a balanced budget and we were still able to maintain our commitment to a quality education, address our unfunded retiree benefits, increase our investment in our crumbling infrastructure, and not go to the full 2 ½ % tax increase as allowed by law.

The Town will continue deliberations regarding the effort to build a new DPW. This is a difficult project, the town has delayed since the 1980s. We can no longer allow our employees to work in the current conditions at the complex. Every year we delay the project, the town is risking its substantial investments in equipment, on a site and in building that is not fully insurable because it is located in the floodplain. Previous town meetings made it clear that the facility should not be sited on town-owned land, especially open space.  Therefore, the site that has been recommended by the volunteer DPW Committee is the Grand Meadows Tennis Club property on Dwight Road.  Like most residents, I do not want to spend over 20 million dollars on a new complex, but it is necessary to do what is right  for the community. Delaying the project the past 30 years has not made it any cheaper; any delay will only increase the cost of this necessary project.

The first night will also include discussion on three articles related to the private development on Dwight Road. This project does three important things:
  1. Increases the tax base without changing the character of the community
  2. Addresses the problems of the two of most dangerous intersections in town.
  3. Creates a more convenient health care facility for the community. 
    The District Improvement Financing is a creative approach to financing and developing this project. Additionally, this public/private partnership may open up additional revenue opportunities. 
The second night Town Meeting will address many other important articles including the planning of a new Adult Center. A new Adult Center is the second building priority established by the town’s elected officials. The current center does not meet the needs of our seniors and this is the fastest growing segment of the population in Longmeadow. Seniors already constitute more than 33% of the town.  Like the DPW project, previous Town Meetings decided not to use open space to site a new facility- preferring to keep it at Greenwood Park. The Adult Building Committee working with the staff has outlined the program space needed for the building and the need for a building dedicated to the services needed for this population.  The funds requested in the article will continue the planning effort for a building dedicated solely to Adult services at the Greenwood Park. The Select Board has also approved a goal of a zero energy building that requires extra design money. The design money will be necessary to get this project, with the necessary detail and estimated costs in front of Town Meeting next year.

The second night will also include the establishment of a Stormwater Enterprise Fund. The EPA has mandated significant new regulations for all towns and cities that becomes effective this July. The purpose of this unfunded mandate is for clean water in our streams, rivers, and lakes where stormwater (runoff from rain and snow) is directed by the drainage system.  In addition to water quality testing, the new regulations require additional maintenance to the drainage system.  The estimated cost to Longmeadow is $200,000. The new fee proposed by the Select Board is tied directly to the costs of the EPA mandates. We are also working on policies to reduce fees for commercial and nonprofit  property owners who manage stormwater onsite as well as policies of rates setting based on projects approved by town meeting.   Our current stormwater infrastructure annual costs are well over a million dollars and are completely funded by property taxes. These added increased costs will reduce current services if new revenue is not generated. 

I have included only the highlights in this year’s Warrant.  We also have by-law changes, Community Preservation Projects, and numerous citizen petitions (including the much discussed “bees”!). Please come to the two night meeting and have your voice heard. In Longmeadow, you are the legislative branch of government.

Thank you,
Marie Angelides
Select Board

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Town Resident Supports New DPW Facility





This "Letter to the Editor" was submitted by town resident Douglas P. Sarnelli in Support of a New Department of Public Works Facility for the Town of Longmeadow

  




 As a concerned resident of Longmeadow I am writing to urge all residents to attend our town meeting on Tuesday May 9th and to support the decision made by the Public Works Committee to relocate the Longmeadow Department of Public Works Facility from Pond Side Drive to that of site known as the Grande Meadows Tennis Club property located at 170 Dwight Road.

In January 2016, Town Manager Stephen Crane convened a Public Works Committee to confirm the need for a new Department of Public Works Facility, to determine the appropriate site for such a facility and to approve a facility design based on the current and future needs of our town.

The Public Works Committee is comprised of nine Longmeadow town residents from many professions who volunteer their time and talent. They have vested interests as residents and taxpaying members of our community. Under the superintendence of Committee Chair Christopher Cove and Co-Chair Arlene Miller, the Committee carefully analyzed well over two hundred possible sites as well as all financial, social, environmental, legal and all other practical considerations necessary for making a sound recommendation to the town. While I am not a member of the Committee, I have attended every Public’s Works Committee meeting for the past fifteen months and I have had the opportunity to observe the committee administer its civic responsibilities with the requisite professionalism, integrity and due diligence.

The Committee, in its many months of deliberations has deemed that the current public works facility is obsolete, incapable of adequately serving the needs of our community and unable to provide a sustainable work environment for its employees. The facility is located on an old ash dump and in a floodplain. To construct a new facility at the current location on Pond Side Drive would be too costly as the facility and our equipment would be uninsurable, being in a floodplain. In the event of a natural disaster it would present great risk to the Department of Public Works employees and to town owned equipment just when public work’s services would be needed the most.

In an October 2016 town vote, our community spoke clearly, affirming the Committee’s decision that the site selected should not affect any residential neighborhoods, parklands or athletic fields or our precious “green space.” 

The proposed facilities designed by Weston Sampson Engineers and the Committee is cost effective, will be energy efficient and conscious of our environmental concerns and most importantly will allow the Public Works employees to administer their duties and responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner in an environment that meets all current safety and regulatory requirements.  The Committee’s budgetary considerations for this project have operated well within the appropriate margins in designing a modest facility to accommodate only our current operational needs and has demonstrated the necessary sensitivity to any tax increase to property owners.  Our town’s Finance Committee supports these measures.

In closing, the Town of Longmeadow is very fortunate to have a body of dedicated, honorable and deeply concerned residents presiding over this Public Works Facility matter.  I wish to personally thank the committee for its commitment to our town and for the hundreds of hours spent away from family and professional and personal interests.  The Public Works Committee has earned the trust and confidence of our town.  All residents should support the committee’s decision to relocate the Department of Public Works Facility from Pond Side Drive to that of the Grande Meadows site on 170 Dwight Road.

Douglas P. Sarnelli, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

Article #32- Storm Water Enterprise Fund


This "letter to the editor" regarding Article #32 (Storm Water Enterprise Fund) which will be considered at the Annual Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 10 was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Curt M. Freedman, who resides at 24 Ridge Road.

 
At the next Longmeadow Annual Town Meeting on May 9th and 10th, Article #32 calls for the establishment of a separate Stormwater Enterprise Fund as per M.G.L. c.44, § 53F½ that will charge annual service fees to pay for upgrades to stormwater infrastructure and maintenance which are presently paid for by our property taxes.  Under our present law, MGL c. 83: §16, our selectmen, “may from time to time establish just and equitable annual charges for the use of common sewers and main drains and related stormwater facilities, which shall be paid by every person who enters his particular sewer therein. The money so received may be applied to the payment of the cost of maintenance and repairs of such sewers or of any debt contracted for sewer purposes.”  We are also required by law to abide by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision: “Emerson College v. Boston (1984),” that mandates that fees be fairly substantiated; the revenue from one customer cannot unfairly subsidize the costs of utilizing the system for another customer.  The judges ruled that an unfair subsidization effectively becomes a “TAX” and no longer a “FEE” and would be ILLEGAL and CONTRARY to Massachusetts law.

Based on direct past and present experience, our town does not know how to charge for service fees that are “just” and “equitable.”  Can we ever forget the Ascending Sewer Rate policy in 2007 that was advertised to have only a 15% increase, but resulted in many customers having their water and sewer costs more than double.  Two years ago, the Selectmen (Water & Sewer Commissioners) attempted to impose hundreds of dollars of annual fixed fees on our water bills per household that would have caused large increases for thousands of residents and dis-incentivized water conservation.  Since Longmeadow still does not allow irrigation water meters (yet surrounding communities do), homeowners who water their lawns pay ghost sewer bills of approximately $550,000 per year.   

Please excuse me for sounding cynical, but for more than 20 years, our Water & Sewer commissioners (now the Selectmen) have been informed on how to adjust our water & sewer rate policy to be “just” and “equitable” as required by law.  For decades, our elected officials have punished us for watering our lawns, now they want to punish us for raindrops landing on our driveways.

If this article passes, our town will have "good" driveways and "hydraulically evil" driveways that could cost each resident tens of thousands of dollars to make impervious surfaces pervious, a most ridiculous hidden tax camouflaged as a user fee.  Let us not have such saturating rainy day government policies result in:  breeding grounds for mosquitoes, flooded basements, and evaporation of our limited liquid financial assets.  Let us also not have this "Rainy Day Tax" compete with funding for other projects in our community with greater societal needs.

Article #32 is not in our Town's interests; it only deserves to be flushed down the toilet.

 


 


Curt M. Freedman, PE

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.
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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