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Town must jump over Prop 2 1/2 hurdle to cover upgrades

Date: 5/24/2011

May 23, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW — Those in attendance decided at the Special Town Meeting that occurred in conjunction with the regular Annual Town Meeting on May 16 to let the town decide whether or not to allow a Proposition 2 1/2 override for the proposed upgrades to the high school's athletic facilities.

After a two-thirds majority vote at the meeting, the town will be asked to weigh in at a town election. The date of that election has yet to be deter-mined.

The proposed upgrades, which include improved lighting, permanent striping and a midfield logo on the athletic field, resurfacing of the track, the purchase of new track and field equipment, a new 500-seat bleacher for visitors, a new four-foot high fence around the track and the installation of three water cannons to wet the field, are anticipated to cost $335,200.

The effect of the debt exclusion on residents would be an additional $3.15 per year per $100,000.

"We talked about this about eight to 10 years ago and it took that long to get the conversation going," John Maybury of the Board of Public Works said.

Maybury added that on top of giving students and residents a top-shelf facility, the upgrades would help the community compete with other athletic complexes, such as the Roberts Sports Complex at Holyoke High School, for Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournaments, as well as Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and other events that require modern facilities. These, along with clinics and camps, could create a revenue stream for the town.

East Longmeadow High School boys track coach Nick Sharon said the East Longmeadow track teams have not hosted a meet of any kind in quite some time because of the diminished capacities of their track and field equipment.

"Is the new equipment necessary? Absolutely," Sharon said. "We do not even have legally safe equipment to compete in the pole vault."

East Longmeadow girls track coach Michael Budd drafted a letter that was read to the attendees in which he pointed out the recent success of the Lady Spartans, which included beating two-time champion Northampton at the Western Massachusetts indoor track and field championships this year.

"Imagine what we could do if we had our own equipment," he asserted.

The town will also be asked to vote on another override for a needed upgrade to the public safety radio systems.

Ryan Quimby, director of Information Technology for the town and the School Department, explained that majority of the upgrades have been mandated by the Federal Communications Commission and must be completed by Jan. 1, 2013.

The cost of the project will be $1.37 million, Quimby said, adding that the cost estimates were received in January for a fixed rate with the understanding that the work would not be done until June or July.

The projected effect of that debt exclusion is $18 per year per $100,000. Between the two overrides, if passed, the town would see a total of $21.15 per year per $100,000 in additional taxes.

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