LONGMEADOW – The Longmeadow Select Board approved the budget for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1 (FY23). The budget achieved the town’s goal of not exceeding a 1.75 percent increase to the tax levy, while last-minute changes reflect the board’s goals.
The board began by reviewing the Capital Planning budget. Select Board member Mark Gold asked for several revisions. The first was a reduction of $50,000 from the Center School window repair and replacement and of $25,000 earmarked for paving. He asked to reallocate the money toward the fire truck replacement fund, which was recommended by the Capital Planning Committee to forgo contributions this year. This change was approved.
With the capital planning budget settled, the overall operational budget was considered. Town Manager Lyn Simmons explained there had been an unexpected $200,000 shortfall in the budget, but it had been worked out through a voluntary $125,000 reduction to the school department’s budget and a $75,000 cut to the salary line items.
A public hearing on the budget was scheduled for March 30.
The town’s two public pools are in dire need of repairs. The Reynolds Pool at Bliss Park is currently routed to drain the pool’s chlorinated water directly into Cooley Brook. This puts the town in violation of the MS4 permit, which regulates discharge into stormwater systems, and it must be replumbed to drain into the sanitation system. Simmons said work on this project began in 2019 but was stopped. The reason for the stoppage is unknown.
There are other issues that complicate bringing the pool in line with regulation. The electrical system that provides pumping for the pool is at capacity and will need to be upgraded. Additionally, the pump room, where chemicals are stored, is under ground level and any accidental buildup of fumes could not be exhausted properly.
While the price of fixing the pump room is not yet known, the rest of the Reynolds Pool repairs are expected to cost $150,000. Work would not be able to begin until May. Due to the severity of the problem and the timeline, the pool will not open for the 2022 summer season.
Meanwhile, the Greenwood Pool has a leak of 15 gallons per day at a daily cost of $80. Simmons said installing a liner in the concrete pool will fix the leak, which she estimated has been ongoing for as long as a decade. The cost of the liner is $150,000.
Gold said the pool is integral to the summer camp at the Greenwood Center and expected use by the adult center. He said camp enrollment, and therefore, income, would shrink substantially if there were no pool available.
Select Board Clerk Josh Levine asked about potential erosion or sink holes that may have resulted from the leak. Simmons did not know if any underground issues had developed.
Funding the liner for Greenwood Pool is on the Annual Town Meeting warrant, but the repairs to Reynolds Pool are not.
Michelle Marantz, chair of the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group, refuted claims made at a past meeting by resident Kurt Friedman characterizing the group’s assertions around natural gas stoves as “scare tactics.” Marantz said the information shared by the group on leaking fumes from gas stoves has come from news reports and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Marantz doubled down and pointed to a March 11 column by New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark, titled “The Case for Induction Cooking.” She paraphrased from the column that living with a gas stove as a child is just as harmful as living with a smoker. It should be noted that the information cited in that story is not from an independent peer-reviewed study.
She ended her statements by saying almost half of the state’s municipal Boards of Health had written to Gov. Charlie Baker asking him to help halt the expansion of pipelines.
Continuing on the topic of the pipeline, Select Board Chair Steve Marantz encouraged residents to take advantage of the state’s MassSave program, which he said offers up to $10,000 in subsidies for equipment that supplements or replaces oil, propane, natural gas or electric baseboards.
Marantz went on to say that the board makes policy decisions based on facts. He acknowledged that 75 percent of residents use natural gas. He also said there are leaks in the existing infrastructure and an energy shortage makes gas a pocketbook issue.
The chair said the board has requested the following items from Eversource: a feasibility study of the long-term possibility of gas disruption, analysis of alternative solutions, a traffic study examining disruptions during construction of the proposed pipeline and metering station and environmental impact statement for the metering station.