Monday, November 24, 2008

This and That (and not enough of either)

So I see by yesterday’s Springfield Republican that South Hadley may appeal the state Architectural Access Board recent ruling that their WalMart quality, quickie golf Clubhouse out at 'The Ledges' does indeed require handicapped access, but they will let them slide with just a $50,000 wheelchair lift installed by 2010.

A dozen years ago KidsSports fitness center in Hadley, now home to the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School tried to get around handicapped access law and lost; and they also ended up installing a vertical wheelchair lift—that certainty was cheaper than installing an entire elevator. So it would be a tad unfair now if the state treats the town of South Hadley any differently.

In fact they should come up with a new rule: if you appeal a decision and lose you not only have to abide by the original decision of the Architectural Access board but you also pay a $10,000 fine. Maybe then folks would think twice about appealing these decisions.
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I see by today’s Gazette the Amherst School Committee is questioning the Chinese language program (financed by a three year Federal Grant), now in its third year at Wildwood Elementary School.

Back when the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School was fighting to get a charter from the state (becoming only one of five finalists to survive the process that year) the Amherst Public Schools used their (part-time) Chinese program as a weapon to say that the (full-time) Immersion School was unnecessary because Amherst had this “pilot” program starting at Wildwood, one of four elementary schools in town.

Of course my concern then was that the program was only guaranteed for three years, and because of budget constraints may not continue after the Federal money runs out. And since the person who originally wrote the Grant Proposal—Wendy Kohler—has now retired, it’s unlikely another grant will be forthcoming.

Today’s Gazette article makes it sound like the program may indeed not continue after this year. Although one parent had a good suggestion: collaborate with Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (who has already made overtures to Hadley).

Nice way to show there are no hard feelings over the previous war.

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The Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee met this morning to hone their Final Report, due December 1, to the Amherst Select Board about what they will recommend for next years budget (besides a level funded "core budget" that reflects absolute priorities) and the following four years worth. Ouch!

Amazingly, for an Amherst committee, they have actually endorsed concrete revenue enhancement ideas that could (if anyone listens) make a BIG difference:

Formalize Payment In Lieu Of Taxes with the BIG three educational institutions--Amherst and Hampshire Colleges and Umass. But first commission an independent accounting audit to ascertain how much these tax exempt institutions cost the taxpayers of Amherst and then craft a PILOT to cover those costs.

Request the town seek legislation to require the Campus Center Hotel at Umass to stop circumventing the Local Option Lodging Tax that according to a committee Stan Rosenberg chaired would bring the town $70,000. And the committee also recommends town officials request the state increase that tax from its current 4% level.

The Committee also endorses the concept of a Local Option Meals Tax that will probably raise the hackles of restaurateurs (but hey, they have not been rankled since the 1999 Smoking Ban in bars war--so I guess they're due.)
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Couldn't help but notice over on the (privately owned) Amherst Town Meeting listserve Robie Hubley responded to an email sent to Rob Kusner thinking it was intended for him (the original sender accidentally hit "send all"). Yes, this would be the same Mr. Hubley who resigned from Town Meeting as of 8/31 because he was now ensconced in South Hadley (golf anyone?).

So he's still part of that listserve--but I'm banned? Hmmm...

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you handicap accessible at your club Larry?

LarryK4 said...

No, as a matter of fact, I'm not.

But I'm also grandfathered (advantage of being in business for 27 years I guess).

So I did not have to take steps to circumvent the law like South Hadley did (not that I would have).

Anonymous said...

Ummm... you are not.

You are still bound to provide reasonable accomidations - this may be "curbside service" but you still are bound by ADA

Ed said...

UMass is not going to pay.

That cash cow is in trouble and all attempting to make it pay would do is force the state's hand on separate municipal status. Which means that the ONLY compensation to the town would be on a fee-for-service and further that the town would be bidding with private vendors.

There *are* private ambulance companies. And with Boston of the mindset to hold student fees where they are (plus inflation) and the legislature cutting the budget, well guess what is gonna happen?

Increase a PILOT and loose jobs on campus. It really is that simple, and then when those whose jobs are on the line start pursuing things from that angle, it could get nasty.

UMass didn't create the Amherst budget mess, and UMass can't fix it.

Ed said...

One other thing -- why are the other "nonprofits" not charged PILOT? The Men's Resource Center, the this, the that -- there are all kinds of nonprofits that could/should be paying PILOT and collectively, it likely is more in assessment than UMass....

For that matter, why isn't the Golf Course paying PILOT - contributing its share back into the general fund?

LarryK4 said...

Ummm...okay I'll be more than happy to carry anyone up the stairs who can't make it under their own power (God knows how many mega-heavy machines I've moved up the stairs over the years)

Alison said...

Ed...

Other non-profits were discussed but ultimately not included in the report since they were not included in our original questionnaire asking the public for feedback. Thus, the recommendation is--at this point--limited to UMass, Amherst, and Hampshire Colleges. Not to say that our elected officials have to limit their efforts to these institutions--this is just what we recommended based on feedback we received.

Alison Donta-Venman, member FCCC

Ed said...

So what we have here are some nonprofits already paying but to be asked to pay more while other nonprofits (who actually use MORE town services) aren't? And this is fair?

The university has its own police and its own initial fire response (EH&S), it does its own code compliance and the *state* building inspector does enforcement.

An outfit like the Men's Resource Center has none of these and hence it is the AMHERST police that drive by to make sure it is OK at night, the FD that makes the initial response, the Board of Health that deals with its trash cans, and Bld Svc who deal with structural safety concerns.

So while the consumption of any one nonprofit isn't that much, the cumulative consumption is probably quite significant. And they shouldn't be paying for it?

Alison said...

Ed,

The FCCC will be presenting its report to the Select Board on Monday December 1st. If you feel that strongly about this, perhaps you should consider attending and raising this issue.

Alison Donta-Venman, member, FCCC

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I'm going to form a "Conservatives Resource Center" and we will meet in my house and Club (somebody bring beer please) so I can take them both off the tax rolls

Anonymous said...

Only one club in the valley does not meet ADA requirements. Any guesses which one?

LarryK4 said...

Probably one that came in fairly recently and therefor as a matter of law must comply.

Of course, you gotta wonder if they also comply with Mass Consumer Protection law and have an insurance bond in case of failure.

Anonymous said...

"So while the consumption of any one nonprofit isn't that much, the cumulative consumption is probably quite significant. And they shouldn't be paying for it?"

Sure - and for the greatest revenue, start with getting all the churches in town to pay; say, property tax on their real estate.

Ed Cutting said...

Sorry Allison, I am putting up the UMass Campus Pond Christmas Tree that day/night, weather permitting.

No, the tree doesn't just appear on its own. It has to be put up by students because of the concerns about Church & State and there is quite a bit of work involved.

As an aside, I would like to quietly thank all those who help, including many who do so quite quietly.

ed said...

You know, the reason why nonprofits (including UMass) are tax exempt is the twofold belief that they improve the quality of life and raise property values (and incomes) of those living in the taxed properties.

Anyone see how Agawam gave Dave & Barry's a tax break?

So you have UMass which does receive muni services and may not be paying for them -- but which also employees some 5000-6000 people, a good number of whom live in town.

Entire industries exist because of UMass, including the rental property market. How much does Puffton alone pay in property tax?

Go up to Witchendon some time and look around. That is what an Amherst without UMass would be like. And what would the property tax coffers look like then?

Anonymous said...

I should have phrased that differently - which club is not handicapped accessible? They are probably not breaking the law.