| Sarah Heinonen
LONGMEADOW – Longmeadow Select Board Chair Marc Strange read answers provided by Eversource after a December 2021 public hearing on the proposed natural gas pipeline and metering station. The board had requested responses to five questions that the utility company’s representatives were unable to answer during the meeting.
The first question was regarding a 10 percent return on investment that Eversource had stated it would receive from the pipeline project. The board had asked if the return the company would receive was 10 percent of the total capital investment or if it would receive a return annually. After reading Eversource’s response, which cited a Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities docket and stated shareholders would not see a return from the project unless “deemed prudent,” it went on to talk about the relationship between rate base and capital investments and year-long “rate case” proceedings involving the attorney general.
After reading the response, Strange asked, “Does anybody understand what it says?” causing members of the board to chuckle at the legal jargon and industry terminology used.
Select Board Vice Chair Steve Marantz pointed out that Eversource insisted the project will not involve an increase in the amount of gas it moves to customers and questioned how the company can receive a return on its investment without selling more gas.
Select Board member Mark Gold responded that the $40 million investment will be written off in taxes. Fellow Select Board member Thomas Lachiusa agreed, saying, “Eversource will pay less in taxes while increasing their footprint.”
Marantz opined that the cost of the investment will be passed on to ratepayers.
Eversource had stated that only 15 percent of natural gas customers in northern Longmeadow would benefit from the back-up provided by the reliability project. The Select Board asked if there was a back-up for service to the other 85 percent of customers and how it is supplied. The company said the rest of the town’s gas comes from five mains in town fed by two gate stations.
Strange asked why the whole town could not be served by the existing mains. Select Board Clerk Josh Levine responded that the company would make more money from the reliability project. The board decided to go back to the company to find out where those gate stations are located.
Question three concerned the dam at the Longmeadow Country Club, which the state Office of Dam Safety classified as a “significant dam hazard.”
Eversource said “mitigations” for potential impact to the dam were under consideration.
Because the metering station is less than a mile from Wolf Swamp Road School, the Select Board had asked for a list of gas metering stations near schools in other areas of the state. In response, he said, he received a “boilerplate” statement about Eversource’s commitment to safety and reliability. Strange said he would push back on this answer, as well.
In response to the board’s last question – whether Eversource stood by former infrastructure owner Columbia Gas’s assertion that the project would be situated in a non-residential area – Eversource stated that it was “unaware” of those statements but acknowledged that their planned station and pipeline routes went through residential areas.
Town Manager Lyn Simmons reported a “skyrocketing” trend in cases of COVID-19 at the Longmeadow Select Board meeting Jan. 3. On Dec. 20, there were 62 active cases in town. By Dec. 30, the case count reached 145, and rose to 219 by Jan. 3. She said this surge was despite 75 percent of eligible residents having received a booster shot.
Due to the rapid increase in cases, a mask mandate in public buildings was reinstated by the Board of Health (BOH). There was no consideration of a vaccine mandate by the BOH, Simmons said.
The town’s web address will be changing. As part of a “refresh” to the look and set-up of the municipal site, the address will change from https://www.longmeadow.org to https://www.longmeadowma.gov. The website refresh is included in the town’s contract with Civic Plus and will not cost additional money. Levine confirmed with Simmons that the town will retain ownership of the .org address to keep it out of the hands of “ne’er-do-wells” who may wish to use it inappropriately.
A public hearing was conducted to approve the change in ownership and liquor license. Attorney Nick Amanti of Fitzgerald Attorneys at Law explained that the group of 10 “Max” restaurants, which had each been owned independently, had merged under Max Hospitality, LLC., and the paperwork needed to reflect that. There was no change to the operations of the restaurant. The board approved the update.