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.


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.  

Mark Gold/ Longmeadow Select Board

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