For the latest information about  COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) Recovery, click here to visit our dedicated page.

Click here to sign up for city emergency alerts - including community event alerts, Fire Department notifications, law enforcement alerts, generation information alerts, and public works notifications

Development & Governmental Relations Committee Meeting July 26, 2021

Jul 26 2021

6:30 pm City Hall Holyoke

536 Dwight St, Holyoke 01040

City Council

Holyoke Massachusetts

 

Notice of Committee Meeting

There will be a regular meeting of the committee on

Development & Governmental Relations (DGR)

 

On Monday, July 26, 2021 at 6:30 PM

Per order of the Chair, David Bartley

 

Meeting to take place at

Holyoke City Hall, 536 Dwight St

and can be accessed remotely via www.zoom.us

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81341705367?pwd=MnhYbjFBd080enl1a0VtMHRrZHQxdz09

Meeting ID: 813 4170 5367 Meeting Passcode: 680996 or by call in at 1 (646) 558-8656 with same Meeting ID and Passcode.  ***

 

Agenda

Item 1: Previous meeting minutes.

Item 2: 1-19-21 BARTLEY, MURPHY -- DPW and City Engineer provide an update on the potential to sell lots for housing at the top of St. Vincent St.  Refer to DPW, City Engineer.  Copy to DGR for a future meeting.

Item 3: 1-19-21 MURPHY -- The DPW come up with an action plan to collect the litter all along both sides of Rt 5 from McDonald's to the West Springfield town line, along both sides of Lower Westfield Rd. from Northampton St. to the bridge, along Whiting Farms Rd. from Northampton St. to Gordon Dr., and along Westfield Rd from Woodland St to Michigan Ave.  Refer to DPW and Suez; copy to DGR for a future meeting.

Item 4: 1-5-21 LISI -- Ordered, that the City Council invite in James Lavelle (and/or the G&E Commission members) from the Holyoke Gas and Electric to give an update on the issues they are presently experiencing including, but not limited to the gas moratorium, its renewable energy portfolio, and the fiber and broadband internet networks.

Item 5: 5-18-21 LISI -- that the City Council invite in Jim Lavelle from the HG&E and any commissioners as appropriate for an update on the nature and impact of the natural gas moratorium in Holyoke, and discuss any opportunities available for ensuring that we have the natural gas capacity we need in order to grow.

Item 6: 2-16-21 ANDERSON-BURGOS, MURPHY -- that the city of Holyoke undertake a feasibility study to figure out how to transfer power lines to underground. The study should seek to understand the costs, the obstacles, the potential cost savings, the impacts on service reliability and on public safety, and to seek what grants or other types of funding are available to limit the city’s cost of doing this.

Item 7: 2-16-21 SULLIVAN, BARTLEY, VACON -- That the manager and appropriate staff members of H.G.& E. be invited in to update the council on any findings regarding municipal broadband projects, related costs, and potential benefits and/or risks. Send to Dev. & Govt. Rel.

Item 8: 7-20-21 Proposals for the American Rescue Plan Act

Item 9: Schedule September meeting

 

Administrative Assistant: Jeffery Anderson-Burgos

The listing of matters are those reasonably anticipated by the chair which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed and other items may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. Also one or two items may require the committee to enter into executive session at this meeting. Agenda subject to change up to two business days (48 hours) prior to posted meeting time.

Development and Governmental Relations Committee

July 26, 2021

 

Members present: Chairman David Bartley, Vice Chairman Michael Sullivan, Howard Greaney, Jr, Peter Tallman

Other councilors present: Terence Murphy, Joseph McGiverin, Rebecca Lisi, Todd McGee, Juan Anderson-Burgos

 

Chairman Bartley called the meeting to order at 6:30 PM

 

 

Councilor Greaney made a motion to remove item 1 from the table. Councilor Tallman seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 1: Minutes from the last meeting

--->      Approved 4-0.

Chairman Bartley stated the minutes from the previous two meetings had been good summaries.

Councilor Tallman stated they had been well written.

Councilor Tallman made a motion to accept the minutes. Chairman Bartley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

Councilor Tallman made a motion to suspend the necessary rules to remove items 2 and 3 from the table as a package. Councilor Greaney seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 2: 1-19-21 BARTLEY, MURPHY -- DPW and City Engineer provide an update on the potential to sell lots for housing at the top of St. Vincent St.  Refer to DPW, City Engineer.  Copy to DGR for a future meeting.

--->      Complied with 4-0.

Item 3: 1-19-21 MURPHY -- The DPW come up with an action plan to collect the litter all along both sides of Rt 5 from McDonald's to the West Springfield town line, along both sides of Lower Westfield Rd. from Northampton St. to the bridge, along Whiting Farms Rd. from Northampton St. to Gordon Dr., and along Westfield Rd from Woodland St to Michigan Ave.  Refer to DPW and Suez; copy to DGR for a future meeting.

--->      Complied with 4-0.

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Bartley stated that the orders had been on the agenda as placeholders, noting that they had been discussed in the past. He then asked for an update on progress. He then recognized DPW Director, Michael McManus.

M. McManus asked if item 2 was regarding lots.

Chairman Bartley clarified that item 2 referred to lots at the top of St. Vincent.

M. McManus stated that the City Engineer prepared a description of what the parcels could be, adding that it had been provided to the mayor. He stated that the mayor and School Department would work through putting them out for bid or separating the parcels to put out to bid.

Chairman Bartley asked how many parcels had been separated out and what their dimensions were.

M. McManus stated he did not have dimensions.

Councilor Murphy stated that the matter would be discussed at a School Committee meeting on August 16th. He stated that they would need to determine they no longer needed the property and to declare their intent give the parcels to the city. He then described the location of the parcels located along St. Vincent Street as well as Ingleside Street, adding that the site was approximately 32,000 square feet. He stated that the Engineer determined that there could be two houses developed on St. Vincent Street as well as one on Ingleside Street. He added that developing the property would make it safer for kids walking by as well as improving the view for drivers.

Chairman Bartley commended the work of Acting Mayor Councilor Murphy to address the matter.

Councilor Greaney asked if there was information on the size of the lots, as well as if the city would be doing any of the excavation of the property.

Councilor Murphy stated that the city would solicit proposals but would not perform the excavation. He added that developers would perform that work. He also stated that the work would have no impact on the Dean School parking lot. He then expressed his intent to provide a map of the location to the Council.

Chairman Bartley clarified that 32,000 square feet was a little more than three quarters of an acre. He then noted that he had recently looked at the route referenced in item 3, adding that the area had improved.

M. McManus stated that either Suez could sweep the area or the department’s litter vac could be used for material that could not be swept up. He then stated that any larger materials or those outside of the paved right of way would require being physically removed by either Roca or the Sheriff’s Department.

Chairman Bartley expressed an intent to invite Roca to attend the committee’s September meeting. He also noted that the Sheriff would be invited in to present his proclamation.

Councilor Murphy stated that the litter vac was important for materials that could not be swept up. He also commended DPW for cleaning the island at Lower Westfield Road and Ingleside.

Councilor Sullivan asked if the department had only one litter vac.

M. McManus stated that there were four in the fleet, adding that they typically have one person operating at any given time and not every day. He also stated that they will have employees begin vacuuming High and Maple downtown areas first thing in the morning, as well as occasionally other sections of the downtown area.

Councilor Sullivan asked to clarify that the four vacs were operational.

M. McManus confirmed that was correct.

Councilor Tallman made a motion that items 2 and 3 were complied with. Councilor Sullivan seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(15:30)

Councilor Tallman made a motion to suspend the necessary rules to remove items 4, 5, 6, and 7 from the table as a package. Councilor Greaney seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 4: 1-5-21 COUNCILOR LISI -- Ordered, that the City Council invite in James Lavelle (and/or the G&E Commission members) from the Holyoke Gas and Electric to give an update on the issues they are presently experiencing including, but not limited to the gas moratorium, its renewable energy portfolio, and the fiber and broadband internet networks.

--->      Complied with 4-0

 

Item 5: 5-18-21 LISI -- that the City Council invite in Jim Lavelle from the HG&E and any commissioners as appropriate for an update on the nature and impact of the natural gas moratorium in Holyoke, and discuss any opportunities available for ensuring that we have the natural gas capacity we need in order to grow.

--->      Complied with 4-0

 

Item 6: 2-16-21 ANDERSON-BURGOS, MURPHY -- that the city of Holyoke undertake a feasibility study to figure out how to transfer power lines to underground. The study should seek to understand the costs, the obstacles, the potential cost savings, the impacts on service reliability and on public safety, and to seek what grants or other types of funding are available to limit the city’s cost of doing this.

--->      Complied with 4-0

 

Item 7: 7: 2-16-21 SULLIVAN, BARTLEY, VACON -- That the manager and appropriate staff members of H.G.& E. be invited in to update the council on any findings regarding municipal broadband projects, related costs, and potential benefits and/or risks. Send to Dev. & Govt. Rel.

--->      Complied with 4-0

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Bartley asked for suggestions on addressing the matters in the orders.

Councilor Lisi suggested addressing the orders by discussing each topic individually, noting that the orders have some overlap.

Chairman Bartley suggested addressing each topic in item 4 and proceed by skipping any overlap in the subsequent orders. He then observed that item 4 covered the topics of the gas moratorium, renewable energy portfolio, as well as fiber and broadband internet networks.

Jim Lavelle, HG&E Manager, stated that the gas moratorium had been in place since January 2019. He stated that lifting it would be a top priority, adding that the best solution would be to get access to more natural gas supply into the city. He then stated that they were pushing energy conservation and efficiency to reduce consumption.

Chairman Bartley asked for an explanation of who was representing HG&E.

J. Lavelle recognized Director of Marketing and Communications, Kate Sullivan Craven, Electric Superintendent Steve Roy, as well as Gas Division Superintendent, Brian Roy.

Councilor Lisi noted that there many questions among the public on why there was a gas moratorium and what would be required to lift it.

J. Lavelle stated that it had been imposed by the HG&E Commission because there was not enough gas supply to safely meet the demands on peak winter days. He stated that the demand was far greater than the pipeline capacity. He also noted that they utilize a peaking plant with LNG (liquified natural gas) that carries close to half the city’s capacity on peak days, adding that it was not a safe situation to use that for extended periods of time. He reiterated that the solution would be getting more capacity to the city.

Councilor Lisi asked how much capacity would need to be freed up to lift the moratorium.

J. Lavelle stated their target was 5,000 decatherms.

Councilor Lisi asked if that goal would be achievable through conservation and efficiency measures. She noted one of the local schools would be replacing their boiler with a more efficient unit. She also asked if there was a timeline for reaching the target.

J. Lavelle stated that it take a long time to achieve through efficiency measure alone, noting that the average home uses around 1 decatherm on a peak day. He stated that a peak day for the city was around 1,000 decatherms.

Councilor Lisi asked to clarify that the target would likely be unachievable within 5 years.

J. Lavelle stated that they would not have a solution within 3 years.

Councilor Lisi recalled that another provider had been interested in increasing pipeline diameter to bring more product into the area. She then asked if there was an interest in renewing that conversation, or if the state’s climate goals had impacted the interest in expanding gas capacity.

J. Lavelle stated that there had been a potential solution with Columbia Gas that would have helped avoid imposing the moratorium. He then noted that they had been purchased by Eversource who had devoted their resources to the Greater Springfield Reliability Project.

Councilor Lisi asked if public pressure could encourage Eversource to work with Holyoke to increase capacity.

J. Lavelle stated that they had been responsive, and no pressure would be needed.

Councilor Sullivan asked if replacing one mile of pipe where bottlenecking takes place would encourage Eversource to work with Holyoke.

J. Lavelle stated that Eversource had been responsive, adding that the issue was that they were fully committed to completing the project in Springfield before they could take on additional work.

Councilor Sullivan asked if there would be additional obstacles even if the pipe was replaced.

J. Lavelle stated that he was not sure what the plan with Eversource would require, noting that the Columbia plan would have required additional work in Agawam and West Springfield.

Councilor Sullivan asked to clarify that the Springfield project prevented any plan from being taken on.

J. Lavelle stated the project was a large one, noting it included Longmeadow, Agawam, and Springfield.

Councilor Sullivan asked to clarify that there was another pipe coming into Holyoke through Easthampton.

J. Lavelle clarified that additional discussions focused on an upgrade to a line coming through Northampton with Tennessee Gas. He stated that it would be cost prohibitive because Holyoke would be the only community bearing the estimated $80 million cost.

Councilor Greaney asked if there was a procedure for reducing the 3 years exclusion.

J. Lavelle stated that it would take much work to achieve 5,000 the decatherm threshold, noting that efficiency measures had only saved hundreds of decatherms. He added that they would know more in the next year after they review gains made by conservation measures.

Councilor Murphy asked if there were figures available on how many potential business or new homes had been unable to get gas service. He also asked how many had chosen to use propane.

J. Lavelle stated they had to deny over 200 requests for service, noting that some had been businesses. He added that the city likely lost business opportunities due to public knowledge of the gas moratorium. He then stated that there had been around 100 of those who had been denied that chose oil or propane.

Councilor McGiverin asked if the G&E continued to offer low cost analysis for homeowners to help them save on energy costs.

J. Lavelle confirmed they did continue to offer that, adding that it was a requirement for those seeking to take advantage of their zero interest loan program for making improvements.

Councilor McGiverin asked if the loan program included furnace replacement.

J. Lavelle confirmed that it did. He also noted that they doubled the incentive for qualifying energy efficiency or conservation measures.

Councilor McGiverin asked if they observed potential abusers with industrial or commercial properties, or businesses that could use the help to take steps with conservation.

J. Lavelle stated that there was an employee dedicated to working with those accounts to find opportunities for conservation or efficiencies.

Councilor Lisi asked if there were model programs, funding, or grants that would allow the G&E to partner with residential building owners for a wholesale conversion to electric.

J. Lavelle stated that there had been test cases with utility companies looking at alternative heating solutions. He also stated that they had completed a study to better understand how heat pumps can be effectively deployed, noting that it may not work on a peak winter day.

Chairman Bartley asked that they explain their renewable energy portfolio.

J. Lavelle stated that the state passed a climate bill with targets for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, noting that there had also been interim targets for 2030 and 2040. He also stated that they had been fully compliant at the time and had been ahead of targets through 2035. He noted that the hydro plant provided much of the city’s renewable energy. He also stated that the years between 2035 and 2050 were less clear because they did not know what solutions would be available. He also cited a recent MIT study which suggested that the cost of energy would increase 3 to 5 times the current rates by 2050.

Councilor Lisi noted that the state was considering a new building code similar to stretch codes adopted in 2009. She then asked if that would impact the portfolio standard.

J. Lavelle stated that he did not believe so.

S. Roy expressed an expectation that their load would increase starting in 2030 with more electric vehicles as well as with increased electrification of homes. He reiterated they were compliant through 2035, adding that long term contracts would have to be renewed beyond that time or they would have to source alternative contracts.

Councilor Lisi asked what the increased pressure would be on their portfolio standards with more buildings using green energy sources or with increased electrification.

J. Lavelle stated that they would need to supply more power as people move to electric heating and more electric devices. He added that the need to buy more power could require them to find more sources of energy. He then stated that the more immediate impact could be on the need to make improvements on the distribution system, adding that it could cost around $100 million.

Councilor Lisi asked who the costs would fall upon.

J. Lavelle stated that the customers would pay the cost, as well as costs related to compliance with the climate bill.

Councilor Lisi asked if they had the capacity to make the improvements.

J. Lavelle confirmed they would.

Councilor Sullivan asked if there was a way to expand on the hydro electric capacity.

S. Roy stated that studies had been done indicating it would be cost prohibitive to increase to enough capacity to make an impact. He added that they had worked on improving efficiencies the past 15 years leading to some increased output.

J. Lavelle he stated that they could get small gains but nothing near doubling the capacity.

Councilor Sullivan asked if the Riverside station had enough flow to add a hydro unit.

J. Lavelle stated there could be opportunity to add capacity when existing units require upgrades, adding it would be between 3-4 megawatts, not 10-20.

Councilor Sullivan asked to clarify that increasing capacity at the dam was limited due to the EPA or the state.

J. Lavelle stated that adding a third unit would be cost prohibitive, and possibly unfeasible.

Councilor Murphy asked to clarify that energy costs to consumers would be 3-5 times current costs in 2050.

J. Lavelle confirmed that had been according to a recent MIT study.

Councilor Murphy asked if the state or federal government would be providing financial support for consumers facing the increased energy costs, noting the difficulty most people would experience.

J. Lavelle noted that the cost impacts of the upgrades were a main concern for them.  He then stated that the total bill includes distribution and transmission costs, adding that the energy portion would be roughly half the bill.

Councilor Lisi asked for information on where to find the MIT study.

J. Lavelle stated he would follow up.

Chairman Bartley asked the Admin Asst to follow up on receiving the MIT study. He then asked for an explanation on fiber and broadband internet networks. He also noted that there had been an article that day regarding a survey.

K. Craven stated that they completed an interest campaign to study fiber internet to homes, with a goal to understand where there was interest to map out a pilot program. She stated that 1,000 interest forms were received from customers. She stated that the cost to providing fiber to homes would be around $30 million. She stated there would be analysis of the data with a plan to release a report that fall.

Chairman Bartley asked what the survey’s deadline was.

K. Craven stated it had been the previous Friday, adding that the form would remain on the website for any additional entries to come in.

Councilor Lisi asked if there had been a target goal for response numbers.

K. Craven stated that a 40% take rate of customers willing to spend $100 a month, the fiber network would become profitable in 10 years. She clarified that had been their target number to guide them.

Councilor Lisi asked if the fiber network would be available citywide.

K. Craven clarified that the $30 million investment would not include multi-dwelling unit, noting that they all have their own layouts and would be addressed case by case. She also stated that there were three pilot locations at that time, adding that they had been connected during development or redevelopment of the buildings

Councilor Lisi asked if the 40% take rate included those who live at multi-family dwelling units.

K. Craven stated that it did not include them.

Councilor Lisi noted having heard from constituents that the survey felt like a push poll that had put emphasis on the difficulty of transitioning from current providers to a fiber network. She also observed that there had been a proposal submission for ARPA funds to better understand network design and pole readiness. She asked if the potential $100 a month cost would be altered based on the study.

K. Craven stated that the interest form had been designed in a way to help people to truly understand what they were answering, noting that the technology would be a large shift from what they were used to. She then stated that any funds received from ARPA or a potential infrastructure bill would alter the cost consumers.

Councilor Lisi asked if the use of the funds from the ARPA proposal would be limited to their pilot locations.

K. Craven stated that the funds would include citywide design of the network, citywide make ready work, as well as a pilot for half wireless and half fiber in a qualifying census tract.

J. Lavelle stated that the reason for the pilot was that some multi-dwelling units (MDU’s) were not included in the estimate and may be cost prohibitive to wire, adding that they wanted to test wireless rather than a fiber solution.

Councilor Lisi asked if the $15 million ARPA proposal request was for the full network and to see how it would impact the $30 million cost.

K. Craven clarified that they applied for $3.5 million in the first round of ARPA proposals, adding that the $15 million request was because they had been instructed to set a target for potential request in the second round of proposals.

Councilor Lisi noted that ARPA guidances suggested that broadband and fiber internet should be focuses of investment. She expressed support for using ARPA funds to cut into the $30 million costs.

Councilor Sullivan asked to clarify that the fiber buildout would take five years if the funds were available.

J. Lavelle confirmed that was correct.

Councilor Sullivan asked to clarify that it would take ten years to become profitable.

J. Lavelle stated that would assume 40% of residents pay $100 a month for the service.

Councilor Sullivan asked about the chances the technology would be obsolete in ten years, noting many advances happen at a rapid pace.

J. Lavelle confirmed that could be a risk. He noted that they researched a cable buildout 20 years earlier than had since become obsolete.

Chairman Bartley stated that the topics in item 5 appeared to have been addressed. He then read the topic addressed in item 6.

J. Lavelle expressed support for the intent of the order, noting that they would prefer to have everything underground. He then stated that all new construction is installed underground, adding that reconstruction is handled case-by-case. He emphasized that cost would be the major issue, noting that installing underground would be 3-4 times the cost of standard overhead designs. He stated that the cost of transitioning the entire city would be around $300 million. He added that bonding for 20 years would cost the city $20 million a year with principle and interest. He noted there would be minor savings from tree trimming costs.

Chairman Bartley asked how recent the analysis had been.

J. Lavelle stated that their figures had been updated after the order was filed that February.

Councilor Anderson-Burgos stated that the intent was to open the discussion, noting that underground installation for new construction would begin the process. He also noted that other areas of savings would include winter outages and vehicle collisions with poles. He then expressed that the discussion should continue until a solution is achieved.

Councilor Murphy suggested there could be potential savings if wires were installed during a road project. He then asked if costs were less with new construction than with repair work.

S. Roy stated that costs are paid by developers with new construction in contract to ratepayers paying the costs with reconstruction work.

Councilor Murphy commended HG&E for a much quicker response to outages than many surrounding communities. He then asked what the savings there would be due to overtime and other costs when a storm causes an outage.

S. Roy stated that they would save around $50,000 a year with non-weather related outages and around $60,000 a year with weather related outages.

Councilor Murphy suggested finding ways to reduce costs by performing the work when there is already other work being scheduled.

Councilor McGee emphasized the value of being proactive in seeking opportunities to cut costs by performing the work as other projects come up.

Councilor Sullivan asked if the estimates for fiber network buildout included installing anything underground.

J. Lavelle stated that 30% of the system was underground at the time, adding that some of the fiber buildout would follow the same path.

Councilor Sullivan asked if poles would remain unless Comcast and Verizon joined them.

S. Roy confirmed that was correct.

Chairman Bartley recalled having lost power in 2011 for three hours, noting that many in surrounding communities without power for much longer came into Holyoke for food and fuel. He then noted that the topic in item 7 appeared to have been addressed.

Councilor McGiverin suggested that the rollout would have to be offered to the entire city to be fair. He then stated that $20 million a year would be a dealbreaker for ratepayers.

Chairman Bartley noted that the matter discussed in item would be a new development. He stated that transitioning at once would be cost prohibitive, adding a suggestion that it could be done piecemeal over time.

Councilor Tallman made a motion that items 4, 5, 6, and 7 had been complied with. Chairman Bartley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(1:14:45)

Councilor Tallman made a motion to remove item 8 from the table. Chairman Bartley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 8: 7-20-21 Proposals for the American Rescue Plan Act

--->      Laid on the table 4-0, $1.7 million approved for "Lost Revenue Replacement"

DISCUSSION:

Chairman Bartley suggested hearing from Acting Mayor Murphy and Community Development Director, Alicia Zoeller first. He then noted that there were many proposals to review. He also noted that an email with many pages of public comments had been received that afternoon. He then asked when Councilor Murphy expected to see a final vote on the recommendations. He suggested that a committee meeting could be scheduled in August.

Councilor Murphy expressed that a planned Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting the previous week had been delayed and rescheduled to the upcoming Thursday. He then stated he would be meeting with city departments to determine which items had the highest priority. He noted that some projects could be implemented quickly. He then expressed a hope to approve some of the projects prior to the first September City Council meeting. He also noted that many other communities had less transparent processes for appropriating their funds. He then suggested a potential infrastructure bill from Congress could impact the funding decisions for ARPA funds. He suggested that funds appropriated for a sewer project could be reprogrammed for other projects if infrastructure funds were made available.

A. Zoeller confirmed that was correct.

Councilor Murphy emphasized the need to have a positive impact on projects as quickly as possible.

A. Zoeller reiterated that CAC intended to meet the previous week. She then expressed her intent to present what they believe should be initially funded. She stated that their focus was on getting funds out as quickly as possible to those that needed, noting that an eviction moratorium would be ending, and rental assistance would be needed soon. She also noted many were on waiting lists for homeowner rehab projects and hosing modifications. She also stated that many in the hospitality sector were in need of funding. She noted that many small businesses had not been involved with traditional lenders and were important beneficiaries of their small business program. She stated that the Holyoke Rows project had received a great deal of public support and should receive funding to begin their boat ramp project. She also suggested approving funding for addressing the immediate impacts of Covid. She added that additional items would require more deliberation and to explore potential alternative funding avenues. She also recognized Kate Preissler had been hired by her office, noting the value of her experience with federal grant management. She then stated that they had not recommended allocating all $14 million at that time, adding that they needed to assure that they did not fund projects that would be eligible for funds through other sources such as the CARES Act.

Councilor Greaney asked if the provided list had been prioritized.

A. Zoeller stated that their priorities showed funding in the OCD column of the list based on what was communicated through public hearings and public comments.

Councilor Murphy clarified that the list had been organized by categories.

A. Zoeller clarified that the projects had been grouped by eligibility criteria for easier comparison within subgroups. She reiterated that the projects with funding recommendations were the priorities. She added that recommendations for funding of projects for city departments had been based on departmental priorities.

Councilor Greaney suggested that it would be helpful to list items based on OCD and mayoral priorities.

A. Zoeller noted that they typically have a column showing mayoral recommendations, adding that she would work with him to get those recommendations.

Chairman Bartley noted that there was over 100 pages of applications as well as public comments in addition to the spreadsheet. He then emphasized the value of having had the Mayor providing feedback during the last round of CDBG appropriations. He then noted that the CAC and Mayor recommendation columns had not yet been filled out in the current spreadsheet for the committee to consider.

Councilor McGiverin commended the Mayor for the open process, as well as to the hard work of OCD staff and the CAC. He expressed support for the recommendations. He then requested that a percentage be held, noting that many deadlines and qualifying details had changed with the funding from the CARES Act. He then expressed a hope that a change in the calculation formula would allow more funds to be used for lost revenue.

A. Zoeller expressed agreement with Councilor McGiverin, noting that additional guidance had been communicated on an almost weekly basis. She then stated that some funding should get out into the community as soon as possible, adding that holding some back made sense. She stated that there was a time frame for appropriation, as well as a five year deadline for expending the funds.

Councilor Tallman made a motion to suspend the necessary rules to allow members of the public to address the committee. Chairman Bartley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Steven Huntley, representing Valley Opportunity Council, commended the open and transparent process conducted by the city. He suggested that water and sewer would be a good investment for the funds, noting that these expenses had often increased at a greater rate than rents. He also suggested expanding broadband to the poorer wards of the city. He suggested that students without reliable broadband would fall behind. He then stated that most of the CARES Act funds they had received for their rental support program would likely run out soon. He also described an additional request as a small program they run that trains people enrolled with the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to work toward earning living wages. He noted that there had been great success in helping people earn a CDL.

Sarah Meier-Zimbler, representing Holyoke Housing Authority, stated that they submitted an application to build homeownership in South Holyoke. She stated that building generational wealth through low income homeownership would be an important endeavor.

Councilor Tallman noted that the typical process included a review of OCD, CAC, and mayoral recommendations. He expressed an interest in reviewing the OCD recommendations with a follow up on the CAC recommendations when they become available. He then emphasized the benefit of making funds available as soon as possible.

Councilor Greaney expressed an interest in reviewing the Mayor’s priorities prior to the committee voting on recommendations.

Chairman Bartley suggested that another meeting should be considered prior to the committee voting on the proposals.

Councilor Sullivan asked if granting an applicant’s request for funding in the first round would be a commitment to granting their request through the second round the following year.

A. Zoeller stated that it would not. She noted that some recommendations included providing an applicant’s entire request in the first round funding. She also noted that additional work was required to determine which projects could move forward with partial funding and which would require their entire requests in order to move forward.

Chairman Bartley suggested that the committee review the OCD recommendations that evening before determining how to move forward.

A. Zoeller stated that projects without allocation recommendations could still receiving funding if it becomes available through additional sources. She then provided descriptions of their funding recommendations:
• $430,000 for Habitat for Humanity, noting it would provide for two single-family owner-occupied housing units for low to moderate income families. She then expressed a hope that they would partner with the city to use vacant lots.
• $200,000 for Rental Neighborhood Improvement Program would provide funding for rental property owners to make improvements.
• $300,000 for the Neighborhood Improvement Program, noting it would provide up to $10,000 for owner occupied housing improvements, adding it was a critical program for the older population.
• $100,000 for Revitalize CDC, she noted the proposal would fund improvements for Covid impacted residents around air quality in their homes.
• $128,055 for Holyoke Rows, noting there was a great deal of community support for the project, adding that it would benefit access to outdoor recreation at a time when more people had been seeking to be outdoors.
• $338,519 for Turnout Gear for Firefighters, stating that it would benefit prevention measures for public health, adding that they can be sanitized between uses and would reduce risk with carcinogenics.
• $25,000 to Providence Ministries for a refrigerated box truck. She stated that food bank distributions typically do not provide perishables because they have no way to keep food fresh. She stated the proposal would enable that.
• $7,000 for Nueva Esperanza food distribution. She noted the organization was working to get themselves reestablished.
She noted that the previous two more end up being able to receive support from remaining CARES Act funding instead of ARPA funding.
• $195,607 for Valley Opportunity Council’s Rent and Mortgage Assistance, noting that there would likely be a larger crisis around homeless families without maintaining stable housing. She added that they chose to work with VOC due to the organization having an existing rental assistance program.
• $1,500,000 for Office for Community Development to allow their small business and hospitality, travel, and tourism industry grants program operational.
• $80,000 for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity to help them staff their operations in Holyoke while new houses were being built.
• $100,000 for Spark EForAll, noting that their small business development program would be a pipeline to assure that new small businesses have stability in accessing local federal grants.
• $529,946 for River valley Counseling Center’s Rise to Resiliency Training with HPS
• $693,610 for Girls Inc’s Together We Rise Mental Health for Girls program
• $366,565 for Greater Holyoke YMCA’s Mental Health for Holyoke Youth program
• $300,000 for Roca Inc’s Behavioral Health Interventions for Young People program
She noted with the previous four allocations that one of the priorities within ARPA was addressing mental and behavioral health in the community. She then stated that OCD intended to assure that children and young people in the community would have access to quality mental and behavioral health services. She also emphasized there was a strong community need for these services.
• $1,000,000 to the DPW for the Jackson Street Area Sewer Separation, noting that the projects would make sense in getting more people on the river. She added that some recommendations for infrastructure had been held back in order to watch for potential updates for possible additional funding through Congress.
• $4,794,000 for Holyoke Water Works Water Line Replacement on Hampden, East Dwight, Portland, and Magnolia Streets, noting that while this would only serve 193 homes within the qualified census track, this was a critical line for replacement and would also serve the Holyoke Medical Center.
She noted that recommendations for broadband had been withheld in order to continue discussions with HG&E regarding the potential for other funding sources, to learn more about how many low and moderate income household’s would be served, as well as needing clarification to assure the Covid related federal funding would not be used just for design costs.
• $1,700,000 for lost revenue replacement, noting that the City Auditor’s office provided the figure through a calculation. She also noted that future calculations following additional guidance more lead to more lost revenue requests.
• $1,300,000 to OCD for Administrative and Planning costs to ensure they had the staff for compliance and record keeping for the grant term of five years.
She noted that there had not been a recommendation for $45,000 to the City Clerk office, adding a suggestion that the funding be allocated due to the potential that there may be a return to remote work and remove access of records.
She also noted there had been a request from Gary Rome Hyundai for electric vehicle charger infrastructure, adding that they would work with them through the small business grants program.

Chairman Bartley asked for the total of all allocations.

A. Zoeller stated the total added up to $14,133,302.

Chairman Bartley asked if the city had already received funds.

Councilor Murphy stated that $14.9 million had been deposited into city accounts.

Chairman Bartley asked if $800,000 had been held back.

A. Zoeller stated that a decision to hold that back had been made to observe the trajectory of Covid. She also noted that they would be looking for other federal funding for some of the projects. She stated that holding back some funds made sense from a public health perspective to allow the city to respond to potential emergency situations. She also noted this program provided a little more freedom than the stricter rules of CDBG programming.

Chairman Bartley suggested allowing the committee more time to review the recommendations.

Councilor Tallman suggested a vote on items that the Council would be sure to support, noting the $1.7 million for lost revenue.  He then suggested there should be another meeting to review the recommendations.

Councilor Greaney asked for a new spreadsheet detailing the recommendations.

Councilor Tallman suggested that another meeting take place following CAC recommendations.

Councilor Sullivan asked for a clarification of a request for $9 million for DPW’s Jackson Street Area Sewer Separation.

Zoeller stated that an earlier document had shown a typo, clarifying that the recommendation was for $1 million. She added that they had initially shown the total project cost rather than the ARPA request.

Councilor Murphy suggested that some areas of agreement could be voted on by City Council following CAC recommendations, adding that a future committee meeting could be held to review additional allocations. He then observed that the allocation for lost revenue would make sense to vote on right away. He added that there were other essential proposals that should be moved on.

Councilor Lisi for a clarification on the recommendation decision for the Boys and Girls Club’s childcare request.

A. Zoeller stated that funding had not been recommended, noting that it may have been a CARES Act eligible program.

Councilor Lisi suggested that with the focus on helping people return to the workforce, childcare would be a priority. She also suggested that any funding for fiber networks should go to establishing networks as opposed to design studies.

Councilor McGiverin suggested that the CAC should weigh in before the City Council votes on its recommendations. He then encouraged a vote on the $1.7 million for lost revenue replacement, emphasizing the importance of having the funding prior to setting the tax rate.

Chairman Bartley suggested that there be a vote on the revenue replacement. He then suggested that August 23rd could be planned as a potential date for the committee’s next meeting.

Councilor Tallman made a motion to recommend approval of $1.7 million for lost revenue replacement. Chairman Bartley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Councilor Tallman made a motion to lay on the table. Councilor Greaney seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

Item 9: Schedule September meeting.

--->      Next meeting scheduled for August 23rd, pending updates on ARPA recommendations

 

Councilor Tallman made a motion to adjourn. Chairman Bartley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Adjourned at 8:47 PM.


Jeffery Anderson-Burgos
Administrative Assistant to the City Council

Holyoke City Hall
536 Dwight St, Room 10
Holyoke, MA 01040
Regular hours 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Meeting days 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Close window