Storm damage costs to be addressed at Town Meeting

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW – Residents at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on Nov. 5 will be asked to approve a number of additional expenditures related to tree work in town.

Four separate warrant articles contain requests for funding, though Tree Warden David Marinelli said one request may be removed.

The vast majority of that funding is necessary thanks to the July 6 microburst and the severe thunderstorm that also took down trees and limbs on Aug. 19.

“We will be receiving no money from the state in regards to the cost of those two storms,” Select Board Chair Marie Angelides said during the recent public forum on the warrant.

The largest sum is $175,000 in additional monies to compensate for cleanup costs associated with the microburst.

It knocked down a number of our trees in a confined area. The majority of the trees that were knocked down were either a poor species or had some significant decay,” Marinelli said. “I consider it an unfortunate way to prune out bad trees, but I have to look at the bright side, which is it gives us an opportunity to plant better species and renew our tree canopy.”

With that said, the total allocation for tree removal has already been exhausted, meaning no further tree work could be performed during the current fiscal year.

Marinelli noted there was also another $50,000 request related to the August thunderstorm, but he believed that the article would require no action.

A third article would ask for an additional $140,000 to supplement the budget.

“Last year we ran out of money in February, so while I was still having tree hearings identifying trees that needed to come out, I couldn’t remove any of those until July 1,” he said. “So some of those trees rolled over into this fiscal year and I want to avoid that happening again.”

The fourth article requests an additional $25,000 for planting new trees. Marinelli said his initial $25,000 budget for tree planting, plus a grant from the state had already been expended with many more trees left to plant.

“I have 140 requests for trees to be planted this fall. It cost me about $250 per tree between buying the tree and paying for the labor to plant it,” he said. “I’ve spent it on trees requested between Oct. 1 of last year and May 30 of this year. Since May 30, an additional 70 requests for trees have come in.”

The closing of the town landfill on Tina Lane, with a $3.2 million price tag, will also be addressed at Town Meeting.

Angelides explained the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection suggested the landfill as the best place to move and bury the asbestos-containing material found at the new Department of Public Works facility site, but with that came a requirement that the landfill be capped within one year. Waivers for the landfill would no longer be an option.

She went on to say state Sen. Eric Lesser and state Rep. Brian Ashe had secured $5 million in bond money for the capping of the landfill as well as new windows for Center School, but Gov. Charlie Baker had not yet released that money. She added she and legislators have been working on getting the money released to no avail and encouraged residents to reach out as well.

Matthew Wzorek, project engineer for Tighe & Bond said the capping was broken into two phases – the first would cap the area containing asbestos and the second would complete the capping of the entire landfill.

The area containing the asbestos measures between 2 and 2 1/2 acres of the 11-acre dump, he said. That area would be capped with a synthetic liner and a soil cover. The remaining work would involve clearing the dump for proper maintenance.

When asked if there were additional costs associated with closing the landfill due to the asbestos, Wzorek said there weren’t.

“A typical landfill cover system is a synthetic liner. It’s HTP material. That’s what they use these days and then there’s a sand drainage layer and a vegetation layer on top of that,” he said. “This is the same system that is required by DEP for solid waste as well.”

Neither Wzorek nor Angelides could say how long the town could have put off capping the landfill if not for the asbestos.