Friday, May 5, 2017

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

No comments: