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Shuttle project remains on hold


Aug. 9, 2013

By Carley Dangona

carley@thereminder.com

AGAWAM – The City Council paused the creation of an emergency shuttle service until the financial details of the operation are defined.

Two items that have been on the council’s agenda since May were addressed during the Aug. 5 meeting. One resolution was passed, but the other remained tabled.

The first item discussed was TR-2013-30, a resolution that seeks to establish a 10-year “memorandum of understanding for emergency transportation” between the town and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA).

The purpose of the contract is to provide emergency shuttles for large capacity areas such as the Agawam Senior Center or the schools.

All of the present councilors – councilors Paul Cavallo and Joseph Mineo were absent – supported the establishment of the agreement. However, the item remained tabled because the majority of the councilors weren’t comfortable passing a contract that didn’t specify the service cost to the town.

“We need much more info regarding the fee,” Councilor Robert Rossi said. He said the document was “loosely designed” and that the council “shouldn’t commit to any agreement without fully understanding the fees.”

Councilor Gina Letellier agreed with Rossi. She wanted clarification on the issue since the council was advised there would be no charge for the service, yet the agreement indicated otherwise.

The contract states, “It is understood that the PVTA will be reimbursed for costs incurred in response to an actual emergency or an exercise. In the event of an exercise, the PVTA will provide Agawam with an estimate of the costs in advance for budgeting purposes.”

It continues, “Costs will be billed at rates to be mutually agreed upon by the PVTA and Agawam and attached to this agreement for the initial period of the agreement. Upon request, the PVTA will provide Agawam with a breakdown of costs incurred in an emergency or exercise, in order to process the request for reimbursement and such funds are subject to appropriation by Agawam.”

Councilor Cecilia Calabrese said she was advised by Chet Nicora Jr., Agawam Office of Emergency Management director, there was no cost to the town for the service.

Council President Christopher Johnson explained the cost might not be definable due to the fluctuating cost of gas prices and related expenses from year to year.

Councilor George Bitzas was the only one to vote against tabling the resolution. “It’s in the best interest of our citizens, especially the children and elderly; even with a cost – we should absorb that to save lives,” he said.

In a follow-up interview with Reminder Publications on Aug. 6, Nicora said, “They [the PVTA] can bill, however it’s not their practice to bill a community in distress.”

He added that to his knowledge other communities, such as Springfield, that have this type of agreement in place and have not been charged by the PVTA for emergency services.

Resolution TO-2013-19 was unanimously approved, granting Solider On Inc. a deferment of the $7,000 sewer assessment for its property at 702 S. Westfield St.

In his letter accompanying the application, attorney Antonio Dos Santos stated, “My client respectfully asks for this suspension with payment of the assessment amount to be suspended until three months from the completion of the construction of the affordable housing for veterans at the property in accordance with the Department of Revenue’s guidelines.”

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