LONGMEADOW – Select Board Chair Richard Foster may have illegally denied a motion made by Selectman Mark Gold during a vote to enter into the next research stage for a proposed $5.7 million Hampden County Regional Emergency Communication Center (RECC) on Oct. 5.
The motion made by Gold was to participate in a regional 911 Emergency District Planning Committee with a provision that the Greenwood Center should not be considered for a final location for the RECC. Selectman Alex Grant seconded the motion.
“As a concept, a regional dispatch center makes sense,” Grant said. “Greenwood is a deal breaker for me.”
Foster said he refused to accept the motion because it was crafted to “shortcut this process,” and essentially ties the hands of future selectmen examining the Greenwood Center as a site for the RECC.
“I think it’s an inappropriate motion to be placed before this board,” he explained. “I’m the chair. I’m the one who takes the motion or does not allow the motion … If I made a parliamentary error, call the lawyer and have me overruled or replace me.”
Selectman Marie Angelides said the next stage would answer questions such as site location and the cost for each of the potential five towns entering into the RECC, which include East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Longmeadow, Ludlow, and Hampden.
“Maybe it’s going to be a phenomenal deal,” she added. “Maybe half of us aren’t going to be on the board at that point in time. The Select Board, at that time, will have the prerogative to make that decision because all of the information will be in front of them. Also, in three to five years we don’t know what the situation will be at Greenwood.”
Ultimately, a motion was made by the board to join the planning committee without the Greenwood provision, which passed by a 4 to 1 vote with Grant voting against.
The board agreed to consult with Town Counsel David Martel regarding Foster’s refusal to accept the motion.
Town Manager Stephen Crane later told Reminder Publications the town has begun conversations with Martel, but a definitive answer regarding Foster’s decision has yet to be made.
Foster said he justified his decision during the board’s Oct. 12 meeting, citing Chapter 5 of the town charter, which states that the town manager has full authority to lease town facilities such as the Greenwood Center, except for school buildings.
There has also been a level of miscommunication between the five communities about which town has entered into the next stage at this point.
Wilbraham Town Administrator Nick Breault said a member of the Carell Group, the Hopkinton-based public safety architectural company that completed the project’s initial, told him that Longmeadow, Ludlow, and Hampden had entered into the next research phase during the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen’s Sept. 21 meeting.
In reality, Longmeadow and Hampden selectmen had yet to vote on the issue.
Wilbraham also hosted a regional meeting between the five towns on Sept. 10, where Gold said no one should assume that Longmeadow would be part of the next phase.