LONGMEADOW — While not rising to a level of contentiousness or controversy, a handful of warrant articles presented at the May 14 Town Meeting did inspire questions and comment from community members as those in attendance voted in favor of 36 of 38 listed articles and approving no affirmative action on the final two items.

Town Moderator Rebecca Townsend conducted what began as more than 200 voting residents through the individual articles as read by members of the Select Board during the just over two-hour assembly.

Articles appearing annually calling for funds to address the previous years unpaid obligations and the selection of trustees to administer the William Goldthwait Bequest, an endowment fund for applicants experiencing financial hardship passed with overwhelming approval as did the remainder of the Warrant Agenda minus the final two articles.

The proposed $83.3 million fiscal year 2025 budget article was approved by a vote of 214-25 following a statement by Greenmeadow Drive resident Tom Shea who raised questions concerning the DPW budget and whether the department was fully staffed at present to reduce or eliminate the use of contractors to address work normally accomplished by town employees.

Town Manager Lyn Simmons responded to Shea’s inquiries noting that the DPW is not at full staff.

“As of earlier last week there were 14 vacancies out of 36 in the union, “She said. “We have struggled since just before the pandemic with staffing of the department, that has not alleviated at all.” Simmons went on to state that she could not provide an answer as to when those vacancies would be filled to alleviate the need for outsourced work.

Funding for capital projects also met with overwhelming approval by the voters. Shea questioned the lack of bonding for some of the projects after stating that he believes “the town is at a fiscal crossroads.”
Community members spoke largely in support for Article 5, which called for $257,000 for the purchase of a new elementary literacy program and training for school educators.

Longmeadow Public Schools Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea addressed the meeting, also speaking in favor of the program and responded to questions from those unfamiliar with the program itself or the process which brought it to the Town Meeting warrant.

“This is arguably the most critical curriculum investment that we could make as it is foundational to what we hope students will acquire during their time in Longmeadow Public Schools,” he said. “And it’s foundational to the work of our educators as well.”

The article calling for the expenditure was approved by a vote of 215-45.

Community member Lawrence Starr introduced a consent agenda item to calling for items 6-18 to be incorporated into one block vote. The included items, called for transfers of water and sewer earnings, wage settlement and treasury funds to finance individual department obligations as identified by the Finance Committee.

The articles included in the consent agenda vote were approved by an audience vote of 198-8, with some attendees leaving the meeting following the approval vote of the literacy program.

Following an approval vote for nearly $1.65 million to address the costs of the Bliss Park Playground Renovation Project, Articles 20-26 were grouped by consent agenda after another motion by Starr who suggested they were all “non-contentious community preservation items.” Those articles were then approved by majority vote.

The first of two necessary votes to allow the town to establish a municipal light plant, allowing the town to expand broadband-based services to residents and businesses passed by majority as did the appropriation of $250,000 for FY25 cable related purposes.

A final motion by Starr to incorporate Articles 29-31 into a consent agenda vote passed with approval by a remaining voter tally of 149-7. Subsequent articles governing sign regulation bylaws and zoning were also approved by audience vote.

A citizen petition calling for the funding of $66,000 for a feasibility study to assemble recommendations or a strategic plan examining the viability of a grass field as opposed to artificial turf at Longmeadow High School Stadium. Following remarks by lead petitioner William Welch, the article passed 128-38.The final two articles, 37 and 38, both citizen petitions addressing solar panel installation parameters were approved by vote, calling for no further action to allow for changes and upgrades to the article for future consideration.

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