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Select Board Talks Budget, Dogs, Committees, Pipes

LONGMEADOW, MA – Longmeadow Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk expressed optimism to the Select Board at its April 17 meeting regarding projected local aid contributions in the state’s fiscal year 2019 (FY19) budget.

“They’re being favorably reported to our advantage, so it’s good news coming from the state at this time,” he said.

The Finance Department also noted in its report submitted as part of the Town Manager’s report that it had finalized the town’s operating budget for FY19. The proposed budget would be balanced without the use of reserves while fulfilling the budget requests of Longmeadow Public Schools, funding collective bargaining agreements (CBA) while allocating money for the soon-to-be-expired fire CBA, providing a 2 percent hike in non-union employee pay, and funding benefit increases.

The total proposed tax increase was within the 2.5 percent allowed by law at 2.3 percent.

Select Board Chair Thomas Lachiusa also noted in the report that of the 2,100 dogs in town, only 1,200 had been registered by the March 31 deadline.

“Don’t make the clerk have to spend a lot of time on this if you could just come in and get your license,” he said.

The Select Board also asked Pasterczyk, acting at the meeting in vacationing Town Manager Stephen Crane’s stead, to seek a legal opinion of the Charter Review Committee’s request to have the terms of its members extended due to uncertainty regarding the completion of their charge. They also requested a meeting with the committee to learn more about its progress.

In a letter to Crane, David Martell of the Charter Review Committee said he hoped to “spare committee members the need to go through the ritual of reapplying” for their positions.

“I’m hoping that the Select Board will extend our terms, perhaps for six months, so we don’t need to reapply at this time. We are expeditiously proceeding through our charter review but are not sure we will have our final report and recommendations by June 30,” Martel wrote.

Selectman Richard Foster said he wished to hear from the town’s legal counsel in order to avoid a “procedural error.” Selectman Mark Gold expressed concerns because the appointments were set for a specific timetable.

“If we extend it, to some degree, it defeats the intent of our Charter Commission formation, which was to have this be a finite work of a short duration rather than have it continue and continue,” Gold said.

Lachiusa told the board he had spoken with Crane and directed him to get more information on the committee’s status and progress in order to get an estimate on how long an extension should be. Pasterczyk said the group had been going “section by section” through the charter and still had “a couple sections to go” as of the last meeting he attended.

Pete Thurber, assistant director of the Department of Public Works’ Water and Wastewater Operations, gave an update on the North Interceptor Force Main, which experienced leaking issues on April 14 when a contractor pushed debris, including tree stumps and stones, against an exposed section of the sewer piping.

A joint was pushed out of position, which required about four hours to repair, Thurber said, adding the town was in contact with the firm, which was installing a pool, in order to recoup the cost of the repair and labor on a Saturday.

The North Interceptor has been identified as a major issue facing the town for some time since Tighe & Bond conducted an evaluation of the sewer system in 2008. While an estimated $5 million replacement has been proposed, Thurber said he has since discussed the North Interceptor with new DPW Director Mario Mazza and suggested there were new options available for addressing the system, but accessibility remains the biggest obstacle.

James Rivers, representing DPC Engineering, said, “The integrity of the system was “pretty good, considering the age … The accessibility is really what we’re seeing. It’s difficult on feet, at times, to access, so improving access so we can get equipment down there is going to be one of our biggest recommendations.”

Foster expressed confusion, stating the former DPW Director Michael Wrabel had identified the North Interceptor as his top priority. He expressed frustration that after allocating nearly $100,000 to conduct a study on that sewer line, no work had been done.

“When are we going to stop studying and start developing specifications to do what the line originally was?” he asked. “Or are you telling us that, in fact, we were not given an accurate story four years ago?”

He added the Select Board deserved answers.

The board also suggested posting signage notifying property owners and workers of the easement, specifically in areas where the pipe is
exposed.

– Article by Chris Maza