LONGMEADOW — Members of the Longmeadow Select Board rejected the recommendation of the Finance Committee that the town hold off on funding the $1.17 million to make Reynolds Pool at Bliss Park operational again. The Finance Committee recommended this move as an alternative to funding the town’s other post-employment benefits account at a lower amount than it otherwise would. The OPEB account funds certain retiree costs, such as healthcare. The committee asserted that the town “should prioritize its financial obligations to its retired workers,” and adhere to “town policy and principles.”

During the public comment period, resident Tom Shea spoke against the Finance Committee’s recommendation. Shea pointed out that the article approved at the fall 2023 Town Meeting specified work on the pool would be done in the winter and spring of 2024 and therefore, it cannot be put off another year. He also said that the pool repair is slated to be paid through a transfer of available cash, and not increase taxes.

Shea said he “trusts” town leadership to balance the budget and that the “first pass” regularly reflects a deficit.

Select Board member Dan Zwirko acknowledged the Finance Committee’s service to the town and opinion on fully funding OPEB. “However, the Finance Committee already brought their opinion in front of the residents at Town Meeting and it is clear that the residents want to open up Bliss Pool and voted overwhelmingly in favor,” Zwirko said. He added that the goal of putting the pool project out to bid in the winter was to receive lower bids than what was presented on the warrant. He said, “We can put these excess funds to use elsewhere, whether it is towards OPEB or something else.”

Fellow Select Board member Vineeth Hemavathi agreed that the town voted for Reynolds pool to be reopened. He said diverting that money is a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” situation.

“We’re going forward with balancing the budget, but we’re going to move forward with the pool,” Select Board member Mark Gold said.

Moving on, the Select Board approved the sale of an $11.62 million bond, which covers the Water Main L Project, Sewer Main L Project, water quality flow enhancements, sewer capacity management, stormwater asset management, Emerson Road water mains and Cooley Drive water mains.

The bond was sold to the financial services firm Raymond James and Associates, with a true interest rate of 3.69%, making the total amount $12.18 million. Finance Director Ian Coddington explained that the true interest rate is what is left when a bond is purchased for a premium. In this case, it lowered the total interest from 5% for eight years and 4% thereafter. The bond will be paid back over 14 years from enterprise account funds.

The winning bid for the Water Main L Project came in at $5.5 million, far lower than the more than $8.53 million that was originally estimated and approved at the fall 2023 Town Meeting. Coddington explained that changing the terms of the bond to reflect the lower cost would be onerous. Instead, he said the money can be used as payments on the bond.

On the topic of saving the town money, Zwirko shared with the board that a painting project at Blueberry Hill School was completed over the winter break with help from volunteers, Town Manager Lyn Simmons, Facilities Management Director Nicholas Georgantas and the office of state Rep. Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow). Zwirko estimated that the project saved the town about $50,000. He thanked the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, which helped remove wallpaper, repair walls, and prime and paint them. This is the third project in Longmeadow with which the Sheriff’s Department has helped.

Simmons told the board that one of the town’s ambulances recently broke down due to a known issue of diesel fuel seeping into the motor oil. The repair is estimated to cost $17,000, which she said will “more than exhaust” the vehicle maintenance for the Longmeadow Fire Department. Medic One is a 2018 F-150 diesel, which is out of warranty and with 83,000 miles on it, has reached 50% of its expected lifespan.

Simmons said the ambulance is “heavily” relied on and requested reserve funds to cover the repair.

Select Board Chair Thomas Lachiusa commented that the Longmeadow Fire Department has had a record number of calls this year, with 72% being medical emergencies. he said $17,000 is high, but “They’re saving people’s lives.”

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