Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW In an informal format, the Longmeadow Adult Center hosted a Meet the Candidates forum last week.
Present were Select Board candidates incumbent Kathleen Grady, Paul Santaniello, and John Fitzgerald; School Committee contender Christine Swanson; Walter Gunn, running unopposed for a seat on the Planning Board; and Moderator candidates Michael Kallock and incumbent Ronald Hastie. School Committee candidate Robert Aseltine did not attend.
A theme brought up by each candidate was improving lines of communication within the town.
Select Board Vice Chair Kathleen Grady noted several initiatives she has been a part of, including the town government's new goal to host more community forums. Most recently the town hosted a forum about Twin Hills in which residents asked questions and officials made a presentation of possible options for the country club.
"Things don't work as well as they should or could," Paul Santaniello said. He currently holds a seat on the School Committee and was previously a member of the Finance Committee.
He said would like to see the Select Board, School Committee, and Finance Committee, meet once a month.
John Fitzgerald, a retired Longmeadow High School teacher and also the third Select Board contender, said that he has an eight-point platform that lists all of his stances on important issues.
"I like to spell out exactly where I stand," Fitzgerald said. He noted that he has been involved in the town since 1971.
Christine Swanson said she hopes to spend her time on the School Committee implementing the school district's strategic plan and "creating a more cohesive" relationship between boards. Swanson, a person who has been seen at the majority of School Committee meetings and forums over the last two years, said she plans to apply her business knowledge to the School Committee.
Former West Springfield Moderator Michael Kallock said the moderator's job is to make sure all people have a chance to speak at Town Meeting.
"It's a delicate balancing act," he said.
Ronald Hastie mentioned the accomplishments during his tenure as moderator. Access to the town meeting warrant seven days in advance on Longmeadow Community Television and the live broadcasting of Town Meeting are just some of the things that Hastie said he has implemented.
He said that many do not realize that Town Meeting has costs associated with it, between $5,000 and $10,000.
He added that he tries to keep all meetings and debates civil.
"When we go home, we're all neighbors and friends. I'd like to keep doing what I'm doing," Hastie said.
Walter Gunn, running unopposed for the Planning Board joked, "maybe my job is so crazy no one wants it."
Gunn, however, did take the time to urge residents to vote in favor of the Community Preservation Act.
According to www.communitypreservation.org, the Community Preservation Act is statewide legislation which enables cities and towns to exercise control over local planning decisions. This legislation strengthens and empowers Massachusetts communities because:
All decisions are local.
Local people must vote by ballot to adopt the Act.
Local legislatures must appoint a committee of local people to draw up plans for use of the funds.
These plans are subject to local comment and approval.
If residents don't feel the CPA is working as they expected, they can repeal it.
The Community Preservation Act was signed by Governor Cellucci and Lieutenant Governor Swift on Sept. 14, 2000.
All candidates agreed that the CPA was a positive investment for the town. It would cost the average Longmeadow home owner $40 a year, or $10 a quarter.
Audience member Diane Nadeau raised a question about splitting commercial and residential taxes, which has been proposed by Fitzgerald. Currently the town has a single tax rate it is the same for residents and businesses.
Nadeau said she felt the effect of raising commercial taxes would eventually trickle down to the residents of the town.
Fitzgerald used Glenmeadow Retirement Community as an example.
"Glenmeadow, is that a residential or commercial enterprise?" he asked, using Bay Path College as another example.
Paul Santaniello noted that there are not a lot of small businesses in town and that residents would eventually pay, because companies may raise their prices in order to meet the additional taxes they are responsible for.
The Longmeadow Annual Town Election is June 6.