Hiccup in winter averaging, possible withdrawal from HCRRS

April 28, 2021 | Sarah Heinonen

LONGMEADOW – Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk informed the Longmeadow Select Board on April 20 that a possible hiccup in implementing sewer use winter averaging had been discovered.

During a meeting with Munis, the company that provides billing software for the town’s water and sewer utilities, the company said it was unsure whether the current software used for the town can produce bills based on winter averaging. The company is looking into it.

Pasterczyk explained that while meters are read monthly, bills are calculated quarterly. The five-month time frame that Select Board members Mark Gold and Richard Foster identified for winter averaging does not fall into that quarterly cycle.

Two options were identified to resolve this issue – a change to monthly billing or expansion of the averaging season to six months, or two quarters. If the town chooses to switch to monthly billing, Munis said it can schedule the town for a system upgrade, but there is a two-month time frame. Longmeadow will also be responsible for the upgrade’s cost.

“It’s not a quick process,” Town     Manager Lyn Simmons noted. Pasterczyk said, “It’s doable. It’s just a matter of how much Munis is going to change for custom programming.” Alternatively, Pasterczyk suggested the town adjust the winter averaging season to Oct. 15 to April 15.

Foster and Gold said that when they were working on the winter averaging issue using Munis’s data, the company did not indicate that it would cause an issue.

“I’m extraordinarily disappointed based on how much effort we put in and looking at how much six-month averaging doesn’t work in the town of Longmeadow,” Gold said.

The board agreed to hold off on any decision until Munis shares its findings. Until then, Pasterczyk said, “We’re at a standstill.”

Simmons gave an update to the board on resignations at the Hampden County Retirement Board (HCRB). Laurel Placzek from the Advisory Council and Chair of the Board Richard Theroux have both tendered their resignations, however, Theroux has not given a date for his departure.

Gold urged the board to send a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker expressing the opinion that the board’s behavior has not changed since the audit. He also suggested that Pasterczyk look into a possible withdrawal from the scandal-laden Hampden County Regional Retirement System (HCRRS).

“If we did that and 15 to 20 other organizations did that, they’d finally get the message if they haven’t already, that we have no confidence in them,” Gold said.

Board member Steve Marantz agreed, “If the organization isn’t going to change, it’s time to leave.” Vice-Chair Marc Strange also spoke in favor of exploring withdrawal and said he was “concerned with the lack of urgency for the board member to change.” Foster added his agreement.

Gold noted that the amount of money Longmeadow pays into the system could hire a private firm to invest directly into the Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) system, the investment fund in which the HCRB invests the town’s money.

WestCOMM is expected to move into its facility at the site of the former Salter College in Chicopee by April 2023, Simmons reported. While the towns of Ware and Southwick have submitted letters of intent to join the regional emergency dispatch service, they will not be able to do so until the move.

Gold expressed concerns that East Longmeadow and Longmeadow are sharing a frequency for first responders. He said it is “very different” from what was promised when the town joined with the dispatch service. Simmons stated that the feasibility study did disclose some shared channels based on call volume.

“It’s more about the efficiency and the model of regional dispatches,” than a lack of channels, Simmons explained.

Gold commented, “It does speak to a potential reduction in the independence of our police and fire departments and our ability to operate separate from other communities when there’s a lot going on in both communities.”

On the topic of the pandemic, Simmons said there were 23 active cases of COVID-19 in Longmeadow and that the town was classified as “yellow” by the state’s risk assessment system. Homebound residents had received their inoculations against the coronavirus during a three-day effort from the Longmeadow Fire Department. The municipal clinic will not be reopening as the state has not designated any more doses for small clinics.

Longmeadow Fire Chief John Dearborn has been appointed by Baker to the state’s Hazardous Materials Mitigation Emergency Advisory Board.

Simmons also praised the 250 volunteers who recently participated in an Earth Day Clean-up. People met at 22 sites around Longmeadow to pick up trash around town. Marantz and Strange thanked the organizers, Andrea Chasen and Laurie Robinson.

Furniture is being moved into the newly-built Longmeadow Adult Center and a staffing proposal is underway. Simmons said that she expected the facility to be at least partially operational between June and July.

Simmons reported that grant applications have slowed. She said the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program has shifted its focus away from stormwater assessments, which Longmeadow is seeking, toward “environmental justice” plans with a focus on “strong social components.”

Meanwhile, Longmeadow will submit an application for the fall round of Green Communities grants.

The Annual Town Meeting will be conducted at the Longmeadow High School on May 16, at 1 p.m. The date for the Special Town Meeting this fall has been tentatively set for Nov. 2 and will also be at the high school.

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