|By G. Michael Dobbs|
CHICOPEE – Members of the City Council expressed their disappointment and concern over the discovery of a $38,500 expenditure to help pay for an inventory of the city’s trees at the Aug. 6 meeting.
The council intends to investigate the matter by calling officials from Community Development, the Department of Public Works and the Forestry Department into a committee meeting to explain the expense.
Earlier in the year the council had accepted a $23,000 grant that was to pay for the inventory. Councilor Gerry Roy discovered a document that showed a possible transfer out of the Forestry Department’s budget for $38,500.
“It doesn’t sit right spending this kind of money for this kind of project,” Roy said.
City Councilor James Tillotson said, “It never came to us. It came out of the Forestry budget. What line item?”
He added the council had approved line items for removing and trimming trees, not for the inventory.
The council will also discuss in committee options to give Chicopee property owners who are serving in the military and serving overseas tax abatement. Roy would like to speak with the Board of Assessors about the current tax abatement program for National Guard and Reservists to see how many have taken advantage of the $500 reduction offered by the city.
Roy suggested the city could afford to raise that abatement to $1,000.
Councilor Timothy McLellan, who is a veteran, said he would like the city to consider offering an abatement program that would allow the homeowners not to pay any property tax while overseas.
The council also approved the use of $60,000 to be used for a temporary fix for the air conditioning system at the public safety complex.
Councilor Frederick Krampits said $60,000 would pay for couple of compressors and rental units for the building. The council had recently voted to purchase new air conditioning and heating system, but before it could be delivered and installed the current system was struck by lightening.
Councilor Frank Laflamme said the new units would come in September or October, but said the city might be able to return the compressors or sell them to recoup some of the $60,000.
Tillotson said that with the addition of the new air conditioner system, the city might be in the position of not having the build a new public safety complex, especially with the Health Department moving to the city building on Baskin Drive.
The council also approved $250,000 to be used to complete sidewalk restoration in the downtown area. Tillotson said the state would reimburse the city for this expense.
Roy also offered a resolution that would state the City Council’s opposition to “smart” electric meters. According to Roy’s resolution, “Whereas, smart electric meters are being installed across the country and world, often without the public’s knowledge or consent and even forcibly installed without the public’s owner’s wishes.
“The United States has become a surveillance state with monitoring/storage of phone conversations, Internet communications, and searches, social media interactions, license plate tracking, etc. and improper access to tax information and medical records all without search warrants.
“Whereas, smart electric meters are able to communicate with new appliances.
“Whereas, smart elect electric meters are capable of transmitting person date gathered from inside the home such as appliance use times and frequency and heating/cooling data.
“Whereas, the collection of such data without warrant is an invasion of privacy as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
“Whereas, long term health effects of prolonged contact with hundreds, if not thousands of electric meters transmitting hourly are questionable at best.
“Whereas, the Massachusetts and federal legislature are debating bills affecting the ability of its citizens to refuse these meters from being installed.
“Whereas as the future control of energy and invasion of privacy are substantial concerns of the people of Chicopee and many Americans.
“Now, therefore be resolved, the Chicopee City Council recognizes the covert aspect of installing smart electric meters; resolved, the Chicopee City Council wishes to make it known it is not in favor of any electric meter which transmits data acquired inside of people’s homes or businesses.
“Resolved, the Chicopee City Council wishes to instruct our state and federal representatives and senators to stop allowing the extraction and storage of date form its citizens and adhere to your oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Roy said the meters could take information from “smart” appliances and transfer to electric companies. A third and a half of the company already have these meters installed, Roy said. There are medical concerns, he added, with people who have pacemakers and other devices. He added there have been reports of people suffering from headaches
Utility companies will decide what temperature to run an air conditioner or refrigerator in order to save problem and sends a signal to adjust the setting, Roy charged. The utility company could also determine the time of day when a customer ran his or her dishwasher, he added.
Tillotson said he was glad the subject was brought up and the resolution was sent to committee for discussion and refinement.
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