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I disagree with Grant

Date: 10/2/2013

I read my good friend Alex Grant’s recent column in the Longmeadow News with great interest, but I must strongly disagree with both his observations and conclusions.

He indicated that the Longmeadow Select Board and the town manager, Stephen Crane, have been passively awaiting the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to complete a traffic study necessary to pursue mitigation negotiations with MGM, and their failure to act was perilous to the town.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The town of Longmeadow has been preparing for negotiations since December of 2012, and indeed we have had active negotiations with MGM for six months now along an array of issues. Our department heads and town employees, under the direction of the town manager, have put in countless hours and extra work to help the town of Longmeadow with the ongoing mitigation process.

I would especially like to thank our new town manager, Stephen Crane. Despite just assuming his position in April, he quickly grasped the intricacies of the gaming legislation passed by the State Legislature and has worked diligently to prepare negotiation strategies and gather information for negotiations. He has contacted the Gaming Commission numerous times, spoken to surrounding communities, worked with PVPC, and marshaled the various Town Departments to work on this important issue. This measured approach will evaluate all the impacts to our community lays the basis for quantifying these impacts. Successful negotiations, and fair mitigation reimbursements, require that we have carefully documented and analyzed data across a spectrum of issues, including traffic, police, and infrastructure burdens that we will have to deal with.

In regards to the traffic study cited by Mr. Grant, the Department of Public Works has worked with Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission on a regional traffic study. The DPW has also been reviewing traffic studies currently available and evaluating that data, including the collection and review of raw traffic data. All this extra work has occurred during one of the heaviest construction seasons in Longmeadow history. I want to thank the Department of Public Works for their extra work this year on the casino mitigation project and to commend them for their high level of expertise. Their skill set and dedication to the job has served Longmeadow well in this process.

Without doubt, traffic flows through Longmeadow will increase. MGM concedes that their proposed facility will generate almost 20,000 daily vehicle trips on an average Saturday, with a substantial portion coming from the south, through Longmeadow, via Interstate 91 and Route 5. Unfortunately traffic studies already conducted by PVPC and a private engineering firm cannot accurately forecast the costs of a neighboring casino to Longmeadow because there are numerous unknown variables with this project.

The Town of Longmeadow has been pursuing the necessary traffic data through three different means. First, we have already reviewed previous traffic studies. Second, we are conducting a regional traffic study in collaboration with PVPC. Finally, we are consulting with other traffic engineering firms that we may use if Longmeadow’s needs are not met by the current efforts.

As the reader can see, we are most certainly not “reluctant to act” in the interests of our community, and are clearly not taking “a passive approach.” The negotiation of a mitigation agreement is a complicated process, and is best accomplished when we all pull together in concert. I would like to thank Town Manager Stephen Crane, the Longmeadow town employees, and our Town Counsel David Martel for their hard work and dedication in the pursuit of this difficult but vital process.

Marie Angelides