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Uncontested races yield low turnout in Longmeadow

Date: 6/16/2016

LONGMEADOW – Close to five percent of residents came out to the polls to vote during the June 14 Town Election, which featured almost all non-contested races on the ballot.

Newcomer William Low and incumbent Selectman Mark Gold both secured three-year terms on the Select Board. Low gained 438 votes, while Gold received 380 votes. Selectman Alex Grant did not run for reelection.

Low told Reminder Publications even though the race was uncontested he campaigned as though it was.

“I really got to meet a lot of people and hear a lot of issues that people are concerned about that I would not have heard otherwise,” he added.

Some of those issues include tax rates, preservation of recreation and open space areas, as well as the community need for new buildings such as the Department of Public Works (DPW) facility and Adult Center, Low explained.

He said he would advocate for a new DPW facility and Adult Center.

Low said one of the toughest issues facing Longmeadow in the near future is the Proposition 2 ½ levy limit, which the town would likely hit within the next several years.  

“It’s not just Longmeadow,” he explained. “There are other towns that are facing that levy ceiling and if things don’t change … it’ll be hit. I want to try to find ways to deal with that and that’s to increase revenue somehow, which is very hard to do in a town like Longmeadow and not spending is very hard to do because a lot of that stuff is out of your control – health care issues and pension.”

Low said he considers issues the board has brought up in the past against Town Manager Stephen Crane to be “fluff.”

He added, “Stephen Crane does a terrific job. It’s a hard job, a very hard job, and I think they agree more than they disagree. So, I think the contention that I’ve seen is gone now.”

Gold said he’s thrilled residents came out to vote, but wished there had been a contested race.

“I truly wish there had been more of a choice for people so we could have gotten a better turnout,” he added.

Some of the most important issues for the town in the near future include expanding Longmeadow’s tax base and finding a way to “resolve” the levy ceiling issue.

“I think that’s something like an artificial cap and we ought to do something about it, but we’ll work on that.”

Jessica Hutchins and Stephanie Jasmin were both elected to three-year seats on the School Committee. Hutchins received 425 votes and Jasmin gained 393 votes.

Hutchins said she’s excited about serving as a member of the committee and “ready for the challenge.”

She said she believes the “pendulum has swung too far in the direction of stress” and chronic anxiety for students in the district and would like to help bring about change.

“This has terrible short and long-term effects on our kids,” she added. “I am interested in finding more balance by looking closely at health, wellness and quality of life issues in our schools.  Some of these issues include indoor air quality of our aging middle school buildings, homework policies, testing policies, scheduling, social-emotional development and professional development time for teachers, just to name a few.  I also think basic needs such as sleep, snacks, recess are important pieces of this puzzle.” 

Incumbent Planning Board member Walter Gunn was reelected for a five-year term on the board. He received 446 votes and ran unopposed.

No one ran for a five-year seat on the Housing Authority, but the top write-in candidate was Phil Hallahan with nine votes. Other write-in candidates included Joe Phillips with four votes, former Selectman Paul Santaniello, who received two votes, and Joseph Rinaldi with seven votes.

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