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Equipment Purchases, Bylaw Changes on Tap for Town Meeting

Voters on Nov. 7 will be asked to consider 19 articles on the special town meeting warrant. (Longmeadow News File Photo)

LONGMEADOW – Voters on Nov. 7 will be asked to consider 19 articles on the special town meeting warrant, which includes new equipment for the police and fire departments, as well as the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Article Five asks voters to approve $175,000 for the purchase of a new heavy duty dump truck to replace the vehicle lost in a tragic accident that took the life of DPW worker Warren Cowles in March. This article drew the most debate amongst members of the Select Board. Originally, the article called for $225,000 to purchase a new, larger truck. However, Select Board members Richard Foster and Mark Gold questioned the need for this particular model, as well as the process used to move this article forward. During a special meeting of the Select Board on Oct. 20, the amount requested was reduced to $175,000 to reflect a smaller truck with fewer add-on accessories. Of that amount, $62,000 will be funded by the insurance settlement.

In Article Seven, voters will be asked to transfer $130,000 from the Ambulance Fund and $130,000 from the town’s treasury to purchase and equip a new ambulance to replace a 2005 ambulance currently in service. Any money taken from the general fund for the new ambulance would be paid back through ambulance receipts by June 30, 2020.

According to the warrant, the Ambulance Fund currently contains $171,000. However, because of the time it takes to order and deliver a new ambulance, a subsidy from the town’s general fund is needed to make the purchase. The 2005 ambulance being replaced has 126,243 miles and 9,228 hours of active run time. It is currently being used as a back-up ambulance, for emergencies only.

Fire Chief John Dearborn said with the staffing increase approved at the annual town meeting in May, and the addition of a new, second ambulance that can be utilized every day, the town will see an increase in ambulance revenue.

“This would give us two reliable ambulances to meet the needs of our community,” said Dearborn, noting that an adjustment in the ambulance rate last year is already having a financial benefit. “We established new rates to keep us whole, and with those increased rates we earned over $100,000 more last year than the previous year. That’s how we are going to be funding these ambulances going forward.”

Dearborn noted that in the past, this ambulance averaged 210 calls per year. Last year, the number jumped to 460 calls.

“Those are calls we have to take because no one else is available to do it,” he said. “If we have to wait and go through the annual town meeting in the spring (for funding), we won’t be able to get a new ambulance until December 2018.”

The Longmeadow Police Department is also seeking a replacement vehicle for a cruiser in the fleet. Article Eight asks voters to approve $35,000 from available funds to purchase and equip a new police vehicle. The town budgeted for two police vehicles within the current operating budget, passed at the annual town meeting in May. However, high mileage and costs of repair are accelerating the need for a third replacement vehicle.

Articles 14 and 15 both involve a ban on recreational marijuana sales. Article 14 imposes a zoning bylaw, while Article 15 amends the town’s general bylaws. According to Town Manager Stephen Crane, both articles have been included at the recommendation of the state’s attorney general.

“The attorney general isn’t sure if this should be done as a zoning bylaw or a general bylaw, so they are recommending we adopt both,” said Crane. “Both articles accomplish the same thing.”

According to the town meeting warrant, under a new state law passed in July 2017, the town can impose a ban on recreational marijuana sales because a majority of voters within the town cast a “no” vote on the legalization ballot questions in 2016.

Finally, the warrant contains two other bylaw changes, recommended by the town’s bylaw working group. One change would create the opportunity to build on existing lots that do not meet the current dimensional requirements but are similar in size to other developed lots nearby.

“This would give the Zoning Board of Appeals some criteria to make a decision,” said Crane.

The other bylaw change would reduce the required setback for installation of a pool.

The full text of all 19 warrant articles can be found at www.longmeadow.org. The town meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Longmeadow High School gymnasium.

– Article by Sarah Leete Tsitso