By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – The performance review for Town Manager Stephen Crane was put on hold until early June after the board voted to postpone it.
Selectman Mark Gold suggested early in the board’s May 5 meeting that the review, which was slated to take place after several other agenda items, be tabled due to the absence of Selectman Alex Grant as well as the receipt of additional information that day that board members had not had the opportunity to review.
“It isn’t required that all board members be in attendance, but if we can make that happen, I think it is important that we do,” Gold said.
Gold and selectmen Paul Santaniello and Richard Foster all voted in favor of tabling the discussion. Chair Marie Angelides opposed it.
Crane indicated that he did not understand the reason for the delay, but did not raise an objection.
“I’m a little confused by the delay,” he said. “I suppose it’s no skin off my nose one way or another, but if everybody filled out their own evaluations and know what they said, then if we delay the process further, how does that enhance that process if the evaluations were already submitted?”
Angelides said that while the date was subject to change until she could confirm that all members could attend that date, the board would aim to include the evaluation in the June 3 meeting agenda.
This was slated to be the first performance evaluation for Crane, who was selected in late January 2013 to fill the town manager vacancy created by the departure of former Town Manager Robin Crosbie, who did not renew her contract with the town in June 2012 and is now serving in a similar role for the town of Ipswich.
In his first year, Crane stepped in and was an active part of the process of negotiating a surrounding community agreement with MGM Springfield and later in the development of the town’s arguments when petitioning the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for surrounding community status and when heading to arbitration, which resulted in a finding in the town’s favor.
Crane also addressed later in the meeting that he had sent a memorandum to the board members regarding a request to increase his salary, which is currently $105,000.
Crosbie, who became Longmeadow’s first town manager in 2005, made roughly $99,000 according to the 2011 Annual Town Report, having not received a raise in four years prior to the announcement of her departure. Her starting salary in Ipswich was $135,000 and, according to media reports, she received a $5,000 raise after her first year, the result of a positive performance review.
The board also agreed to discuss that issue after Crane’s performance evaluation was complete.
Gold also gave an update of the Longmeadow High School building project and told the board that while the overall project is expected to come in below the anticipated $77 million budget, it is expected that the town would be responsible for approximately $470,000 more than expected.
“My expectation is that number will not change substantially,” he said. “The Select Board will be asked to authorize the payment and at that point, it is up to us to determine how we are going to pay that.”
Gold explained that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) would reimburse the town for approximately $33 million and the town would be on the hook for the remainder, including the pool and district offices, which were not eligible for MSBA reimbursement.
Crane pointed out in his report to the board that Veterans’ Services Officer Anthony Lawrence, who had been allowed a leave of absence by the town to explore a career with the Springfield Fire Department, has decided to continue pursuit of that profession and would be leaving his post.
“He’s done a nice job in the brief time he was here. I received many compliments regarding his work,” Crane said.
The town will begin the process of looking for a replacement and Crane added that all issues related to veterans’ services that needed to be addressed prior to the end of the fiscal year have been taken care of.
Angelides suggested asking the Springfield Department of Veterans for help if any immediate needs arise in the interim.
The board also spoke with Mary MacInnes, administrator of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA), who discussed possible changes to bus service in Longmeadow.
MacInnes said a review of current routes had resulted in a recommendation to discontinue service on Route 5 due to poor ridership levels. The route costs the PVTA approximately $39,000.
She noted that no decision had been made and Gold, the town’s liaison with PVTA, could object to the removal of the route.
She said a large part of the problem was due to the fact that the route is a “flag stop” service because Longmeadow has resisted erecting bus stop signs in town.
“It’s a detriment to the service of the route,” she said, adding that the PVTA has designed new signs that are more esthetically pleasing and include route information.
Angelides asked if it was possible to change the route in order to boost ridership, to which MacInnes explained that such a decision depends on many factors, namely additional mileage and the costs associated with covering more ground. She said the PVTA would have to study whether a change in route would actually generate more riders.
Gold and MacInnes both pointed out that if the route was discontinued, it would not affect “Dial-a-Ride,” Americans with Disabilities Act service, or service to Jewish Geriatric Services.
The board also determined a dog owned by Anthony Wallace of 121 Homestead Ave. to be a nuisance and ordered that the dog be kept inside. When outside, it must be controlled by its owner on a leash no longer than six feet long and muzzled.
The decision came after nearly an hour of testimony from Wallace’s neighbors and dog officer Marylee Caramante and Wallace regarding multiple incidents in which the dog, a pit bull, was loose in the neighborhood and reportedly acting aggressively toward residents and other dogs.
Caramante said the dog has never been licensed in town in approximately two years and she has never received confirmation of a rabies vaccination, despite multiple conversations between herself and Wallace and multiple tickets. She said the matter has been brought to the Hampden County court.
Lori Brackenbury was among the neighbors who testified and became emotional when describing an incident in which her two senior dogs were involved in an altercation with Wallace’ dog after it entered her yard. She said while her dogs were not injured, one was covered in dog saliva.
Wallace said that the dog had gotten out of the home a few times due to the fact that he often has a large number of children coming in and out of his house to play with his two children, but pointed out there was a year’s span between incidents.
He said that he did not license the dog because shortly after moving to Homestead Avenue, he was laid off from his job and while the actual licensing fee is $15, the expense of updating the dog’s rabies vaccine prevented him from doing so. He said the dog was vaccinated when he got it.
He added that because of his prolonged unemployment, his family would be leaving the town at the end of the school year, but said he is back to work and will get the dog licensed after updating his vaccines this weekend.
The board advised Wallace that if he does not comply with the order, the dog officer would have the authority to remove the dog and place it in a kennel, the expenses for which he would be responsible.