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Letters from 6/13 Reminder

Need community's support

As Mapleshade Elementary celebrates 50 years of excellence in education, we want to take a moment to thank our community for their ongoing support of the students and staff. Because our town values education, our students have access to both traditional educational content and modern technology through the ongoing development of a core of qualified teachers, support staff, and supplies and materials to support in-depth learning. Year after year, our children score extremely well on whichever test the state sends of us, whether it has been the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the MEAPs, or the current MCAS. Our Special Education program strives to accommodate the special learning requirements of all of our children and our G/T program lifts and highlights the potential of every child. Our Fine Arts programs in music, band, art and physical education support whole body and mind learning and further develops the talents and strengths of our children. We strive to leave "no child behind." We have every reason to be proud of our public schools and the quality of our graduates.

Each year, we see increasing numbers of students to the point that we are literally meeting with students daily in closets, hallways, cafeterias and behind the stage in curtained off areas. It is hard to convince a child that their learning is considered important when meeting with them in a closet, behind a stage curtain, or in a hallway where other classes are passing. Not only is space an issue, class sizes consistently hover at 27 to 28 students. These students come to us with a myriad of learning styles and when class sizes go over 20, those learning style needs are not met as effectively with current staffing and learning is compromised. Research proves and the expertise of current staff knows, children's individual learning needs cannot be met as effectively when there is one teacher to 27 or more students.

We need, as always, the support of our community to ensure that class sizes don't go even higher as teachers are laid off and classrooms are combined. We need additional space to house our students and provide environments that show we value our children. We want to hold on to the programs that support the learning of the whole child. East Longmeadow has always valued their residents, including their children. Keep working with us now to ensure the best possible opportunities for our children.

Wayne Wilson, Principal

Mapleshade School

Deb Barry,

Teacher in the Gifted and Talented Program

Take the time to vote

As Administrator of Student Services, I am writing to encourage you to take the time to vote on June 14. Further, I am encouraging you to consider voting in favor of two articles, which will drastically impact our school community.

As you know, our school communities are growing rapidly. With that, comes an increasing diversity of students including those with special needs. While East Longmeadow public schools remain committed to providing quality education and services to students within the least restrictive environment, there are some academic, social, behavioral, and functional issues that are best addressed away from the mainstream in a more private setting. Our special education programs are created, based upon research-based practices, which encourage early and intensive intervention. This sometimes necessitates the provision of various therapies, such as speech and language, physical and occupational therapy, diagnostic teaching and other academic interventions, and counseling and behavioral support. Additionally, we attempt to provide parents with ongoing consultation and support in regard to their children's progress. In order to best accomplish this, we need space. As new modular classrooms will alleviate classroom crowding, other space in school buildings will then be made available for our staff to provide these much-needed services.

However, I also emphasize that all education should be geared toward addressing the talents and weaknesses of all children. We must embrace a system of education that is geared to holistically providing a quality educational experience for the children of East Longmeadow. In order to accomplish this, it is important to provide programming and staffing that meets these needs, while providing enriching academic, creative, social, and functional experiences. This will be very difficult to accomplish without adequate funding.

Please make the choice to vote on June 14. Please vote in favor of the allocations of additional funding and classroom space, by choosing "yes" for all three questions. By doing so, you will be maximizing all students' opportunities for a successful educational experience.

Raymond G. Sylvain

Administrator of Student Services

East Longmeadow Public Schools

Override will spell the difference

The citizens of East Longmeadow have a narrow window of opportunity in which to maintain quality town services they are accustomed to depending upon. In addition to fire, police, library, public works, and senior services, the taxpayers and children of East Longmeadow have enjoyed an enriched tradition of excellent schools and educational opportunities. The June 14 override vote will spell the difference between continuing this tradition of excellence or facing unavoidable cutbacks in personnel and services due to insufficient funding across all town departments.

As a school administrator, I have taken pride in overseeing a facility that has offered state of the art programs, instructional services and athletic opportunities for the young adolescents of this town. Personnel cutbacks result in loss of programs, increased class size and fewer teacher-student interactions. We cannot expect adolescents to succeed under these circumstances. These adults of tomorrow need more and deserve better.

On behalf of your children, grandchildren or young people in your neighborhoods, please vote in support of the three ballot questions on June 14.

Linda Houle

East Longmeadow

Great to see interest

I'd like to take this opportunity to respond to Verna Skelton's letter to the editor that appeared in the June 6th issue of "The Reminder" concerning state funds for smoking prevention. I'd like to start off by saying that I couldn't agree with her more, and that it's great to see such interest in the state's budgetary process.

Members of our community do need to be educated to understand the dangerous health risks associated with tobacco use. I assure Ms. Skelton and all of my constituents that the State Senate understands and shares her point of view.

In fact, in this year's budget we once again continued the trend of committing more funds to our state's smoking prevention and tobacco control programs. From FY04 to FY05, the amount of money dedicated to these programs rose from $2,535,000 to $3,750,000.

In this year's budget, FY06, the senate unanimously voted to raise the amount to $4,250,000. As you can see, the state legislature continues to honor its commitment to public health and health education.

Should anyone have any further concerns or input, please feel free to contact my office at 527 Main Street, Indian Orchard 01151, or by telephone at 543-2167.

Brian P. Lees

Senate Minority Leader

1st Hampden and Hampshire District

Board provides more info.

Dear East Longmeadow Resident::

There are two areas of the town budget which fall under the purview of the East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen that have caused great concern among the members of the board for several years. Those areas are employee health care costs and trash disposal costs. Both of these areas have received a great deal of attention from the board in recent years. Health care costs are often subject to market forces. The problem of rising health care costs has become a national concern. Sometimes a municipality can do very little to rein in these expenses. In other areas, steps have been taken to keep these costs in check. The Scantic Valley Regional Health Trust, of which East Longmeadow is a member, tracks national trends and has taken steps in an effort to control these expenses. Controlling health care costs is an ongoing battle.

For almost three years the Board of Selectmen has also engaged in discussions with citizens over spiraling trash removal and disposal costs. The Solid Waste Advisory Team (SWAT) was formed by the board in 2003 and was originally comprised of eight members. This group of citizens was asked to look at a wide range of trash disposal issues facing the town and to advise the board on any cost saving measures which would encourage the responsible disposal of trash and recyclables. Over the intervening months its membership has dwindled to just two active members and the board's call for volunteers has gone unanswered. After months of fact-finding and public meetings, the SWAT Team reported back to the Board of Selectmen in the fall of 2004 suggesting that the town consider a full pay-as-you-throw trash disposal program. The goal of such a plan is to decrease waste disposal while encouraging recycling. The board considers the input of this citizen advisory panel (and all such panels) to be quite valuable.

The trash pick-up contract between Waste Management, Inc. and the Town of East Longmeadow was due to expire on June 30, 2004. The Board of Selectmen elected to extend that contract for one additional year so its expiration would coincide with the expiration of the trash pick-up contract between the Town of Longmeadow and their contractor service provider. The idea was that if two towns negotiated contracts for similar services, there may be some savings due to the economy of scale. A group of town officials from East Longmeadow and Longmeadow began to meet in December of 2004 to discuss these possibilities. Representatives of the Town of Wilbraham also joined in these discussions. Arlene Miller, a Longmeadow resident and Recycling Coordinator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also took part in these meetings and played an important advisory role in our discussions. This group met numerous times, discussing options available to the towns and interviewing potential vendors for our trash hauling contract. A request for proposals was put out in March of 2005 asking that potential vendors provide quotes for trash pickup services for each individual town as well as for all three towns as one entity. Several possible methods of trash collection were to be considered by these vendors including automated pickup, pay-as-you throw and the present method of trash pickup used in each of the towns today. Our thought that a regional approach to trash pickup might provide a savings to the towns proved to be unfounded. The contract proposals received by the towns suggested that the three towns would be no better off financially by entering into a regional contract than we would if we entered into separate agreements. It was an interesting process for all and the knowledge shared between the towns provides a model of cooperation that we hope will be carried over into other areas of town government.

In early May, after much deliberation, the East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen voted to enter into a five year contract with a trash hauler, Central Massachusetts Disposal, Inc., an Auburn, Massachusetts company with local offices in Palmer.

In order to understand the overall impact of this contract, one must understand the entire trash management process and the three tiers of costs / earnings that make up our solid waste budget. The town's solid waste costs can be broken into two parts, collection and disposal. Each of these two areas is independent of the other for budgetary purposes. To accomplish the collection aspect, a vendor (Central Mass.) removes the refuse left at the curbside by residents. For this service, the town pays a flat fee (recently contracted at $522,370 per year). This is a fixed cost.

The second facet is the actual disposal cost (referred to as a "tipping fee"). The Town of East Longmeadow is currently in the tenth year of a twenty year contract with ECO/Springfield (ECO) for disposal services. This service is based solely on tonnage. The town, through its trash removal budget, pays $69.70 per ton to dispose of trash. This per-ton fee is slated to increase by 3% as of July 1, 2005 to $71.79 per ton. This cost, by its very nature, is not a fixed cost. It fluctuates, based on how many tons of waste that the town disposes of annually. We can, however, control these costs merely by reducing the number of tons of trash we throw away.

The third tier is an income stream derived from recycling. The town is in the first year of a ten-year contract with Recycle America Alliance at the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). Under this contract, we receive $15.67 for each ton of recyclable materials we deliver to that facility (plus additional money from revenue sharing). This income stream, much like the "tipping fee" can be controlled through the recycling efforts of our residents. The more recyclables disposed of at the MRF, the more income the town derives.

To state it quite simply, the town has little control over pickup costs. These costs are static regardless of the tonnage picked up and hauled to the disposal site (ECO). The two areas where the resident can have some influence is in the actual disposal (reducing tonnage results in a savings to the entire community) and in recycling (increasing recycling tonnage results in more income).

The information presented to the board by the DEP was that other communities (Wrentham and Brockton for example) that engaged in a waste reduction program saw a 25 to 30% reduction in tonnage disposed of. Where does this reduction come from? A pay-as-you-throw (or waste reduction) program encourages recycling. Recycling efforts increase somewhere in the area of 20 to 25%. The end result - the town controls disposal fees and encourages recycling. Recycling efforts bring income to the town plain and simple.

Based on FY 2005 costs and projected costs for FY 2006, the town could realize a cost benefit somewhere in the area of $200,000. This figure is based on actual savings and some cost-avoidance projections money that we will not have to ask the taxpayers for because we have changed our trash collection system.

Two hundred thousand dollars - this is a substantial sum of money in a town that is asking its residents to approve a Proposition 2 _ override to merely maintain the present level of services in some departments. Yes, the Board of Selectmen is presenting the citizens of the Town of East Longmeadow with a means of saving tax dollars in FY 2006 by merely asking that each family take responsibility for the waste stream generated in that household. This type of potential savings is a rare sight in the Commonwealth in these difficult fiscal times.

Here are some facts we ask you to consider. In FY 2005 the town's pickup fees with Waste Management were approximately $449,243.00. Under our new contract with Central Mass. Our pickup fees in FY 2006 will be $522,370.00. The new contract represents a net increase of $73,147.00. However, if we stayed with the same plan with the present vendor, Waste Management, our pickup costs would reach $550,000.00 - an increase of over FY 2005 - $100,757.00.

In FY 2005 the town paid tipping fees of approximately $351,985 5050 tons @ $ 69.70 per ton. Remember, this per-ton fee is slated to increase by 3% as of July 1, 2005 to $71.79 per ton. Based on these figures, and estimates provided by the DEP, our tipping fees in FY 2006 (using the $71.79 per ton fee) will be $362,539.50. Remember, the DEP tells us that we can expect to see a 25% to 30% reduction in waste with a waste reduction program. Using these estimates we can expect to save between $90,635.50 and $108,762.50 in FY 2006 in tipping fees. A 25% reduction in waste means we will dispose of only 3787.5 tons in FY 2006 equaling a cost of $271,904 saving the taxpayer approximately $90,635.50. If we use the same figures and assume a 30% reduction in waste we will dispose of 3535 tons costing $253,777.00 - saving the taxpayer approximately $108,762.50.

Now let's look at the revenue generated by recycling. In FY 2005 the town realized income in the amount of $25,839 from recycling. We disposed of 1649 tons @ $15.67 per ton. But the DEP projects an increase in recycling of 20% to 25% if we institute a waste reduction program. Again, using those assumptions we should realize an increase in recycling to somewhere between 2028 tons (20% increase) and 2104 tons (25%). Using those projections, we should realize somewhere between $31,788.76 and $32,969.68. In addition, we are the beneficiaries of a revenue-sharing arrangement with the MRF that is projected to net an additional $15.00 per ton for recyclables. Using the DEP projected figures, our revenue from recycling in FY 2006 should be somewhere between $62,198.76 and $64,529.68 a net increase in revenue from recycling of $36,359.76 to $38,690.68.

Here are some features of the new trash pickup program of which all residents should be aware:

Trash pickup will occur weekly instead of bi-weekly. Residents who have paid an extra fee for weekly pickup under the present contract will immediately realize a savings of $72.00 per year. You will no longer pay for trash collection on those off weeks.

Weekly trash disposal will be limited to one trash receptacle (bag or barrel) which shall not exceed 35 gallons. The individual homeowner will be responsible for purchasing this receptacle. Anything in excess of this 35 gallon barrel should be placed in a designated type bag which will be available in area stores for a cost of $1.75 per bag.

The revenue from bag sales will be used by the town to further defray the cost of trash disposal fees.

Recycling will occur weekly. Paper and cardboard will be picked up on one week. Glass, plastic, cans and other recyclables will be picked up on the next week.

Recycling is unlimited. There is no limit to the amount of recyclables which can be left for pickup. More recycling "blue-bins" will be made available to town residents beginning in late June.

There are some misconceptions being discussed in the arena of public discussion that have clouded the issues facing this community with regard to the trash pickup contract. I would like to address these.

"According to media reports, Longmeadow got a better deal than East Longmeadow." Not true. The truth is that our trash pickup contracts are quite similar. However residents of Longmeadow will be able to leave an unlimited amount of trash out for curbside pickup. At the end of FY '06 let's compare our trash disposal costs and income stream created by recycling. We feel that, in the end, the Town of East Longmeadow will fare better than our neighbors to the west.

"Springfield has unlimited pickup." Not true. Springfield limits the amount of trash that the individual homeowner can dispose of to 96 gallons per week. But, Springfield also has a Control Board, has faced huge reductions in municipal services, and is the subject of an ongoing federal corruption probe. In spite of the great admiration we have for the present mayor of City of Springfield and my respect for some members of the City Council, Springfield is hardly a model of fiscal responsibility. A recent consultant's report has recommended that the city review their solid waste disposal practices.

"Bags will only be available at town hall during business hours." Not true. These bags will be made available through several area stores (Big Y, Stop & Shop, CVS, Walgreen's, A.W. Brown, Rocky's, and Romito's ).

"Our old (larger) trash containers will have no further use." Again - Not true. These containers can be marked with the word "recyling" and used for disposal of plastic, glass and other recyclable materials.

"Rubbish left in plastic bags will be destroyed and strewn about by animals." Nothing will prohibit a resident from storing their full pay-as-you-throw bags in a trash receptacle. This will help protect against destruction by animals and allow for storage of trash. However, if a resident leaves out more than their allotted 35 gallon container, and that overage is not in an official town trash bag, it will not be picked up.

"This plan will encourage illegal dumping." The anecdotal evidence from DEP tells us that this is not true. Also, recent news report from Springfield described the illegal dumping in that city that has caused concern in several neighborhoods. Remember, Springfield residents can dispose of up to 96 gallons of waste each week. It is our belief that illegal dumping is an issue of community pride (or the lack thereof) more than anything else. People who are not stakeholders in their community do not exercise the same level of ownership in that community.

The members of the Board of Selectmen have emphasized that there must be a concerted effort among the residents to make this work. In difficult fiscal times we need the cooperation and participation of all citizens in this effort to rein in these spiraling costs. With a bit of effort, we can accomplish two worthy goals.

One final thought. In these times of budget cuts and Proposition 2_ overrides we should all be looking at ways to control costs in every aspect of town government. The Board of Selectmen has presented you with a solution to a problem a solution which will require some individual efforts and sacrifices, but one that will result in an overall savings. What we have not done is to come to you with an outstretched hand asking you the taxpayer - for more money to fund trash disposal.

East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen

John M. Claffey, Chair

James Driscoll

Gary Delisle

Bay Path appeal

Bay Path College appealed the Longmeadow Planning Board's April 5, 2005, unanimous rejection of the Bay Path parking lot A plan. The Planning Board rejected the plan because it would have devastating effects on the landscape of the abutting Arlington Road neighborhood. Their decision was to preserve the integrity of the Arlington Road landscape, and to screen the neighborhood from the sounds, sights, and pollution from commuter student parking.

In a May 31 Reminder article, Bay Path spokesperson Kathleen Bourque says that the appeal seeks to begin the "process of how we can continue the dialogue with the town and understand what our options may be." In its deliberations, the Planning Board publicly noted that the College can have its parking without burdening its neighbors, and the Board would work with the College to achieve this objective. From that standpoint, the appeal was unnecessary.

After reading Ms. Bourque's statements and comparing them to the appeal, a rational person might do some head scratching. The person might look closer at, (1) the way the College spun the appeal to the public, (2) the potential effects the Bay Path parking plan would have on a surrounding neighborhood, and (3) what the appeal says.

The Planning Board already publicly stated that the members would work with the College to identify solutions to its parking problems. In this context, Ms. Bourque's statement reads like an obfuscation. Clearly, the stated purpose of the appeal is to overturn the Longmeadow Planning Board's decision. If Bay Path were successful in its appealand we expect it to failthe College would followup with a plan that would cause maximum harm to its neighbors' lifestyle, peace, and property interests.

Our rational person may examine the appeal to see what it says. Within the appeal, the College asserts that it considered alternative solutions for its parking problems. The only one that works for them is the parking lot A expansion. Such an approach creates contention. If the College thinks it has only one solution, how does this position lead to a meaningful dialogue?

Bay Path argues that in 2004, the Zoning Board of Appeals carefully reviewed the College's need for additional parking. Bay Path student parking is a problem. That point is affirmed. The number of spaces needed, and the location of the lot, is the issue. In this regard, what the College omits saying in its press release and in its appeal, is important. The ZBA members appeared to engage in funny politics that favored the Bay Path. The ZBA decision was appealed by the Arlington Road neighborhood. In the Arlington Road appeal, the Court is asked to rule on whether the ZBA engaged in gross negligence, bad faith, and malice in rendering its decision.

In its appeal, Bay Path asserts that a petition signed by Arlington and Emerson Road neighbors supports the Bay Path parking plan. On the surface that sounds like the neighborhoods are divided about the parking lot A plan. We discovered that those who signed the petition were Bay Path employees. No, Arlington or Emerson Road homeowner signed the petition. This Bay Path statement seems calculated to mislead.

In its appeal, Bay Path submitted that it hired an arborist. The arborist reported that the removal of a cluster of thirty-four mature trees abutting Arlington Road would not affect the Arlington Road landscape. As with other Bay Path statements, critical information was omitted. The arborist did not speak to any Arlington Road homeowner. The richly foliated trees form a thick canopy that shelters the neighborhood from the College. The Planning Board denied the Bay Path petition partially because the loss of this screening would degrade the Arlington Road neighborhoods' character and promote an unacceptable loss of open space. This sounds like Bay Path paid the arborist, and called the tune.

In its appeal, the College submitted that the Longmeadow Fire Chief commented on the possible ramifications of building a multistory parking garage. Based upon the "garage" description Bay Path representatives gave the Chief, he found faults with the plan, saying the garage could not be built. Planning Board member Richard Curran asked the Chief about what kind of parking garage the College could construct on its campus. The Chief said the parking garage could be constructed if the College met achievable requirements, and he specified them. (College representatives previously rejected the suggestion for building a parking garage saying it would be an eyesore for the College.) The Bay Path statement, that a garage couldn't be built, is misleading.

Bay Path's single-minded objective is to put its parking where it is most convenient for it, which is also where it is most destructive to its neighbors' property interests. Through an intrusive process, Bay Path disrupted the peace and tranquility of its neighbors, and threatened their property values. The College now consumes considerable town time and taxpayer dollars in an appeal that contains misleading statements. Yet, the College describes itself as a good neighbor.

Bay Path College created its own parking crisis, obfuscated the issues, and sought to unfairly burden its neighbors with its parking problems. It wants to expand its parking in a location it finds most convenient, but which is most destructive for its neighbors. The College has alternative solutions. Bay Path can park student vehicles on the green in front of its administration building. That plot of ground will hold several hundred parking spaces. It can build a parking garage. Many other colleges and universities have done that. Either alternative solves the College's parking problem. They can then leave their neighbors alone to go about their lives free of College provocation, pressures, and intrusions.

Dr. William Knaus


Who can spend the most money?

Having lived in Longmeadow and East Longmeadow I'm beginng to belive there is a competition to see who can spend the most money. A small vocal group in both towns don't seem to care what it costs us as long as they get want they want now ... I remember being at an overide meeting when I asked if any less agressive building plans were in place and almost had to leave because of the loud negative response.

We now have another override vote coming up after what adds up to a tax increase for trash pick up. By the way Mr Selectman, 35 gallons of trash a week is not realistic in a town with as high a recycle rate as East Longmeadow and I checked the figures"...... As the town has grown so has the tax base. I understand the demands but no matter what, everyone needs to live within their means. By the way who do I go see about an override so I can build a new garage?

W.R.Bedell East Longmeadow

Top-paying district?

In the June 5 Springfield Republican, we learned in a lead article, that "Longmeadow is one of the top-paying districts in Hampden County with teachers who have a bachelor's degree and 5 years experience earn $45,447". For the same classification, East Longmeadow pays $45,268, Chicopee $43,132, Ludlow $40,312, West Springfield $38,938 and so on.

That is not what we heard at the May 10 Longmeadow Town Meeting. Pro- override supporters told us that Longmeadow teachers were poorly paid; that East Longmeadow, Ludlow, Wilbraham, Belchertown, etc. paid much more for their teachers than we did. We were led to believe that if we did not increase the salaries of our Longmeadow teachers, they would leave for better paying positions. I wonder why we were told this when the information provided by the Springfield Republican states just the opposite. Frankly, I believe the Springfield Republican since they don't have an ax to grind.

This is another example of the school committee and its supporters crying, "Wolf". Instead of owning up to the fact they signed a lucrative contract with the teachers and in order to support the override they created, they told us another "story". Well, the Longmeadow voters did not buy it and they defeated all three override proposals. And if this teacher salary information were made public sooner, I bet the override defeat would have been even greater.

As long as these kinds of tactics are used, the clear-thinking Longmeadow residents will continue to defeat overrides. If and when all the facts and truth are presented to us (whether it be for schools or any other department or project), I'm sure the residents will support realistic increases for all valid proposals.

Leo Vartanian


E.L. Voter's Guide

This is a letter recommending a yes vote on all three override questions. It is important to remember that town finances can be somewhat complex and entails a little more than the basic budgeting rule of not spending more than you receive. Let's face it, explaining the difference between stabilization and undesignated funds or the difference between levy ceiling and excess levy capacity just does not have the same appeal as something fun to discuss with your friends like the World Series, Super Bowl or Marriott's newest golf resort. So if you are looking for a quick tour of the important 'big picture' issues, perhaps the following unofficial voter's guide will be helpful to town voters with busy schedules. Enjoy!

(1) Vote YES on all 3 questions. (2) If you or your spouse travel on business frequently and there is a remote possibility you are flying out on June 14, obtain an absentee ballot at town hall. (3) Ignore override results from surrounding communities, EL has different needs.

(4) Property tax increases may actually reduce your taxable income if you itemize deductions (Schedule A) on federal tax returns (Form 1040 line 39). (5) Pay for use fees are not tax deductible, better to have services built-into property tax. (6) Personal, impulsive purchasing habits, trips to casinos along with optional cell phone & premium cable bills may actually exceed the cost impact of the override the phrase 'we can't afford it' is lame.

(7) Contact town assessor's office for info on elderly and other tax exemptions available to help offset the impact of the override. (8) Resist the temptation to vote 'no' just to 'leverage' your frustration vote with various town, state or federal government issues. (9) If your children are about to or already graduated from high school, resist the temptation to say 'not my problem'.

(10) Nobody wants to pay more than one's fair share, however, it should be no surprise that luxury homes will pay more. (11) The 2.5% levy limit