|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW Towns across the Commonwealth have been dealing with the issue of outdoor wood boilers (OWBs) by making their own regulations, as a senate bill has not yet been approved. At the Dec. 18 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, regulations were voted on and adopted for the town of East Longmeadow, even though they were not the regulations originally drafted and presented at a previous public hearing.
Acting as the Board of Health, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved of regulations after proposed amendments to the regulations were accepted.
"This is an effort to [reach a] compromise between the health of the town and the financial well-being of its residents," Board of Selectmen Chair Jack Villamaino said.
The document stated the fuel used in OWBs must be wood that has not been painted or chemically treated, and that all OWBs constructed and in use before Feb. 29, 2008 shall be grandfathered into compliance. Townshend said he estimates there are currently between eight and 10 OWBs in East Longmeadow. All currently existing OWBs must be registered with the town before that date.
Boilers constructed after March 1, 2008 cannot be within 500 feet of the nearest residence and the chimney must be at a height that is greater than the height of any roof peak of any residences within 500 feet of the OWB, with a maximum chimney height of 55 feet. An amendment was made to allow chimneys 60 feet tall because of an OWB owner whose neighbor's roof is slightly over 55 feet in height from where the boiler sits.
Senate Bill 45 sets a maximum chimney height of 55 feet and if and when the bill passes, the state law will supercede the local law. Villamaino did not approve of the 60-foot chimney amendment because he "wanted to be state compliant for the future."
The town regulations limited the use of OWBs to the months of October through March with operation prohibited the rest of the year. An annual permit must be renewed by owners before Oct. 1 of every year.
Those who do not comply with the regulations will receive a $100 fine with a first offense, a $250 fine for the second offense and a $500 fine for the third and subsequent offenses.
With nuisance complaints, the owner would be fined the same amounts for the first and second offenses, and a third nuisance complaint within a period of 12 months would result in an order from the Health Agent for the owner to dismantle the boiler. Townshend amended the regulation to strike the dismantling rule from the document.
Fred Kowal, the town's health agent, said the legal notice presented at the OWB hearing on Nov. 20 was different from what was presented during Tuesday evening's meeting. The Board of Selectmen's meeting was the first time Kowal had seen the new regulations. "There are changes in distances and setbacks," Kowal told the Board of Health.
"I called the state and the state will disapprove of these regulations because they violated procedural requirements," Townshend told Reminder Publications. "I think it was very unethical to post something, have a public hearing on the document, and then when we're ready to vote on it, introduce a totally new document.
"It was inappropriate of Villamaino to present a document of proposed regulations that were different from what was presented at public hearing," he continued.
Townshend added that if the regulations adopted at the meeting were sent to the state, they would not be approved of by the Department of Environmental Protection.
The original notice listed a setback of only 200 feet, with smaller fees for regulation violations and allowed for usage of OWBs October through April, one month longer than the adopted regulations allowed. Chimney heights were listed as needing to be "two feet above roof peak."
Selectman James Driscoll said the only difference he saw was the height of the chimneys.
Kowal said he was aiming for a 300-foot setback on OWBs and that he thought the regulation was incomplete it needed to allow variance for current owners. "But I think it's a good public health regulation," Kowal stated.
Town Counsel James Donahue said it was at the discretion of the board to include language about variances. Townshend amended the regulation to include variances, or official exemption from a rule or regulation.
"I hope this issue is put to rest," Townshend said once the regulation had been approved of. "Hopefully, neighbors will communicate more." He added that shutting the OWBs down during the summer months will solve a lot of the issues in the town surrounding the boilers.
Because of the procedural requirement, however, the issue will go back to public hearing again sometime in January. Townshend said he believes the process will take about six weeks and will be "taken care of before April."
Budget, IT, ELCAT and Spoleto Updates
Also discussed at the Board of Selectmen's meeting were updates from various town department representatives.
Tom Caliento, the interim town accountant, updated the board on the town's FY08 budget, budget projections and free cash balances. East Longmeadow began FY07 with $1.88 million in certified free cash and began FY08 with $1.86 million. The projected end budget for the current fiscal year was estimated at $1.45 million, which prompted Caliento to say, "The town is financially healthy."
Townshend asked, "Why did we have to cash in a one million dollar CD then?"
Caliento replied, "I don't know." He added Townshend's question wasn't relevant to the budget presentation. Villamaino suggested Townshend talk to the town's treasurer about the issue.
"The treasurer invests and liquidates money. He is separate from the accounting office," Caliento stated.
Following his presentation, Ryan Quimby, the Information Technology Director, spoke with the selectmen about their search for a new systems network administrator. Of the 56 resumes collected, Quimby said 40 to 50 of them have at least the minimum requirements for the position.
Driscoll said the need for an administrator was "a dire situation that needed to be addressed." He wants the top six candidates chosen by the IT Committee as soon as possible so the selectmen don't have to delay their decision another month.
The new ELCAT director, David Horgan, could not attend the meeting for updates on the station but a spokesperson for the department said the reason there have been issues with ELCAT recently is because the transfer of information between old and new entities did not take place. "A problem arose because commitments were not kept," the spokesperson said.
Things are looking better, however. "The kids [students in the high's schools media department] are very excited about our upgrades and an outside volunteer has even shown interest. With the new equipment, the visual and audio are much improved," the spokesperson said.
"There is a marked difference," Villamaino agreed.
ELCAT is currently aiming to become a non-profit organization.
The Spoleto saga officially ended at the Dec. 18 meeting with the Board of Selectmen approving of an amendment to the restaurant's liquor license to match its new expanded seating occupancy.
"This is an excellent business for the town," Driscoll said, "and I apologize on the town's behalf. We welcome your enormous investment in this town."
"It's unfortunate you had to incur legal fees and negative press, but we're happy everything worked in your favor," Townshend stated. "I hope for your continued success."
Bill Collins, manager of the local Spoleto, thanked the board for their help and said, "We're hoping East Longmeadow becomes a restaurant mecca."