Bidwell Advisors
December 20, 2018
Happy Holidays to neighbors and friends, Ward 2 and elsewhere,

I hope that during this holiday season all of you are enjoying relaxing family time and a slowing down in the pace of busy lives.

Please read on to learn more about these topics:
And please be in touch with your suggestions and questions.

Happy New Year!


Dennis Bidwell
An Accelerated Road Paving Planroad
In the last year concern about the state of the City's streets has reached new levels. Some of this concern has translated into specific proposals for how the City could further accelerate its rate of street paving, in order to begin doing more than just barely keeping up. Like virtually every other city and town, our infrastructure deficit comes in the form of a very large backlog of road projects that don't get attended to for lack of resources.
The Mayor and City Council have heard these concerns. The Mayor has proposed to the City Council, and the Council has approved, a plan to use bond financing in the next fiscal year for $2.5 million of road improvements. This $2.5 million of local resources would supplement an estimated $1 million of State Chapter 90 funds, about $650,000 from the Stormwater Enterprise Fund used for road drainage work, and $1.5 million from other sources, to bring to about $4.7 million what the City hopes to spend on road-related improvements in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Prior to 2015 the City spent only between $900,000 and $1.3 million annually on road work. In 2015 the City started using bonded debt to supplement State funds. Also, at about that time, the Stormwater Fund began kicking in. By spending Stormwater funds on repair of underlying drainage problems, the City is able to make its paving repairs last longer, making dollars go further.

As illustrated in the following chart, provided by the Mayor, the city has gradually been ramping up its use of bonded debt, moving from $500,000 in FY 2018 to $1.5 million in FY 2019 to the projected $2.5 million in FY 2020.

$4.7 million in projected spending on road-related work in FY 2020 sounds like a lot of money. But to put that in perspective, consider that the work recently completed on Audubon Road cost over $1 million, and that the extensive work on Hinckley Street (including extensive drainage and utilities work) totaled over $3 million.

There will continue to be many Northampton streets in need of repairs that won't receive attention in the next year, but I'm pleased that a more accelerated approach is being pursued.

To make further headway the State needs to increase the pool of Chapter 90 funds available to cities and towns. 
Ward 2 Voter Turnoutvoter
 By the time all of the ballots (early voting by mail and at City Hall, absentee ballots, and Election Day voting) had been counted at the end of the day on November 6, Ward 2 tallied the highest voter turnout percentage of any Ward in the City. We had 74% of our 2557 registered voters vote in the general election in November. Good job Ward 2! And Precinct 2A was at the very top of the list, with an 81% voter turnout percentage.

For purposes of comparison, the City turnout overall was 72%, with turnout percentages ranging from 61% to our own 81%. The turnout statewide was 60%, and the national turnout was 47%, which is, believe it or not, a 50-year high for a mid-term election.

As they say, democracy isn't a spectator sport. It's great to see such engagement in our local electoral process! 
Water Qualitywater
In recent weeks I have been hearing comments about an increased smell of chlorine in the City's water. I asked Department of Public Works Director Donna LaScaleia to comment, and this was her response.

The City of Northampton tests for hundreds of contaminants in the water supply annually, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 (amended and reauthorized in 1986 and 1996). If the water is found to be in excess of federal and/or state limits for any contaminant, the City is required to notify consumers of the contaminant exceeding the accepted levels in accordance with the SDWA.

Federal and State law further require that chlorine be added to municipal water supplies that come from a surface reservoir. Northampton has three surface reservoirs and therefore is required to add chlorine. The purpose of the chlorine is to kill or make inactive harmful water-borne microorganisms. Northampton's approach is to filter the water and then add chlorine at the Water Treatment Plant. We add around one part per million (1ppm), which is significantly lower that the four parts per million (4ppm) that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set as a maximum contaminant level (MCL). One thing to note is that when the temperature gets colder, and less biological activity is occurring, the chlorine smell can become more prevalent than during warmer weather.

I am attaching our Consumer Confidence Report for 2017 which by law must be sent to all customers on an annual basis. The report has information about the City's water and it also lists all testing and results for the calendar year 2017.

Northampton's water meets all federal and state regulations and is entirely safe to consume.
Senate President Spilka visits Northampton senate
On December 11 Senate President Karen Spilka spent a day visiting the Pioneer Valley on a tour arranged by Senator-Elect Jo Comerford. Organized around the theme of "Ending Inequality and Creating Lasting Opportunity for All," the tour including community conversations at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and at Greenfield Community College. The Senate President's last stop of the day was an event in Northampton at the Arts Trust Building (33 Hawley Street) co-hosted by the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce. The focus of this gathering was a look at western Massachusetts economies and what is needed to thrive and create good jobs. I was pleased to be invited to speak to the Senate President and community leaders on the topic of the role of small business and our vital non-profit sector in building a regional economy that provides access for all of the vibrant diversity that defines Northampton and the region.

It is great to see our newly elected state legislators - Senator-Elect Jo Comerford and Representative-Elect Lindsay Sabadosa - hitting the ground running as they ramp up to their work representing us in the State House. Having gone for many months without either a State Senator or State Representative representing us in the legislature, it will be wonderful to be so ably represented by Jo and Lindsay as of their swearing-in on January 2.
Dennis Bidwell City Council Ward 2
19 Forbes Avenue
Northampton, MA 01060