The Recorder – Federal grants to fund public works and social services in the area

GREENFIELD – Several communities in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area have received nearly $4.8 million in grants to meet the needs of low- and middle-income neighborhoods.

With funding from the competitive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the municipalities of Greenfield, Athol, Montague, Orange, Shelburne, Erving, Northfield and Warwick can support a wide range of projects and services aimed at helping people low and moderate income. inhabitants or to revitalize parts of the city.

In Greenfield, the city’s $825,000 grant will be used for a second phase of infrastructure improvements on West Street, as well as continuing the city’s annual contributions to social service projects.

“It’s absolutely necessary,” said Lindsay Rowe, Greenfield’s community development administrator. “It helps that the city doesn’t have to pay.”

The city began Phase 1 of the West Street project last year, from Elm Street to Western Avenue, and will continue infrastructure work from Elm Street to Conway Street this year.

Rowe said work on West Street is focusing on sewers, drainage and water mains, one of which burst in a series of water main breaks across Greenfield in July 2021. She said that most of this infrastructure had been installed at the beginning of the 20th century and needed to be replaced.

“Here we are over 100 years later,” Rowe said.

According to the project description, the West Street improvements will benefit the more than 2,200 people who live in the neighborhood, approximately 75% of whom are low- to middle-income residents. Construction is expected to begin in April and end in September.

Nearly $80,000 will also go to several social service programs in Greenfield. The Center for Self-Reliance will receive $50,000, while The Literacy Project and LifePath will both receive $15,000.

In Athol, City Manager Shaun Suhoski said the city is “pleased” his $775,075 award is helping to continue rehabilitation of the Walnut Street neighborhood near Main Street.

“This project will complete a three-year, three-phase effort to improve the neighborhood,” Suhoski said. “This is going to top off this whole neighborhood.”

Like Greenfield, Athol’s project focuses on Walnut Street’s underground infrastructure, but will also rebuild a total of 845 linear feet of pavement, re-curb and replace the “100-year-old deteriorated clay sewer system”. . Suhoski said the project is another facet of more than $6 million invested in downtown revitalization.

“We’re really going to be able to do a lot of work downtown, which is a target area for improvement,” Suhoski said, adding that the funds are “vital” for cities like Athol.

“Some of the water pipes we are upgrading are between 80 and 120 years old,” Suhoski said. “The cost is just way beyond the rate the municipal budget could do on its own.”

For Franklin County towns outside of Greenfield, the CDBG application is handled by the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Executive Director Gina Govoni agreed that the CDBG program is “essential” to help small communities fund a variety of essential projects and services for low- and middle-income residents.

“I think these are really big funds,” Govoni said. “As a regional organization, we are happy to bring these funds to the region.

Govoni said the housing authority is working with cities to determine their needs over the course of a few years. In smaller towns like Northfield, Erving and Warwick, which received $928,267, the money will be used for housing rehabilitation, which she says is needed to keep people in their homes.

“We do a lot of rehab for owners. It’s really the only program that allows us to do rehabilitation for owners,” Govoni said. “There are a significant number of low- and middle-income homeowners who really need these funds.”

She estimated they worked on “30 to 50 homes” across the county in any given year. Govoni said these projects are generally on an 18-month implementation schedule, which will begin this summer, noting that they are “in the process of getting the ball rolling right now.”

Besides housing and infrastructure, Govoni highlighted the social services aspect of the CDBG program, which helps fund a “nice range of programs.” She highlighted LifePath’s home-sharing program, which allows seniors to “age in place”, and a feasibility study on Butterfield Elementary School in Orange.

“These are great programs and they continue to achieve their goals,” Govoni said. “They have come to rely on funding from CDBG. »

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

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