Thursday, May 4, 2017

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

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