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Voters approve raises for Fire Department

Date: 10/4/2011

Oct. 3, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW — Almost as if it were scripted, the East Longmeadow Fire Department showed exactly why it deserved a raise.

Moments after the Articles 3 and 4 were approved at the Special Town Meeting, allowing money to be transferred for the purpose of funding raises to call and full-time firefighters, as well as police and town employees, there was a bustle in the East Longmeadow High School auditorium as the firefighters jumped up in response to a call to an emergency scene.

A total of $65,000 was permitted to be transferred at the Sept. 26 meeting, with $5,000 allocated to call firefighters, who will receive a raise of as much as $1.50 for captains, $1.25 for lieutenants and $1 for privates. The remaining $60,00 will be distributed to the full-time firefighter union employees, police officers and members of the town employees’ union.

Paul Federici, who represented the Board of Selectmen in the absence of Jack Villamaino and James Driscoll, told the town prior to the vote that while the town employees’ contract had not yet been signed, both parties had reached an agreement.

The town also passed two articles requesting by-law changes that would allow the town to be in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) clean water standards, but it was not without opposition.

Several residents stepped to the microphone to speak against Article 10, which would add a by-law regarding the maintenance of stormwater retention and detention basins.

The by-law would give the Department of Public Works (DPW) the right to enter property containing a basin in order to perform inspections. If the basins were not maintained to the Board of Public Works’ specifications regarding detention basin maintenance, the property owner would receive notice and would have to correct maintenance issues.

If the repairs or other maintenance were not addressed, the DPW would have the right to enter the area with any equipment necessary for the basin to be properly brought up to standards, with the cost of the repairs falling upon the landowner.

If a homeowners’ association is responsible for maintaining a basin and the DPW is required to make repairs, each of the owners would be assessed an equal share of the debt, regardless of whether or not their lot contains the basin.

John Maybury, a member of the Board of Public Works said, 56 stormwater basins exist within the town lines and only two are owned by the town. Of the 54 privately owned basins, he said roughly half of them are not being maintained appropriately.

Some said it was unfair to expect a homeowner who is not part of a homeowners’ association and has a detention basin on his or her land to pay for maintenance and repairs when often it is mud, dirt, trash and other debris from the entire neighborhood that finds its way into the basin.

Others balked at the idea of the DPW having the right to enter their property whenever they want. Still others questioned how long it would be until the EPA’s regulations changed again and how much those changes would impact those with basins on their property.

Maybury said that he has a basin on his property and recommended the by-law because it was not designed to be punitive, but rather to allow the town to aid residents in maintenance.

The town voted against Article 5, which proposed using $36,000 for the purpose of hiring a veteran’s services officer. Federici explained that by law the town was required to hire a full-time officer and while the town has explored a regional position with surrounding communities, such an agreement is not currently in place.

Frank Iovine, chair of the Appropriations Committee, told the town the article was not recommended because the committee felt there was not enough time to adequately explore the option of regionalization.

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