Common Ground
November 2020
A Newsletter for Community Planning in the Berkshire Region
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We want to congratulate Melissa Provencher on her 20-year Anniversary with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Melissa started with BRPC as an intern, and was then hired in October 2000 as an associate planner. Melissa is currently the Environmental and Energy Program Manager, providing leadership and guidance on technical aspects of Environmental and Energy programs including the Berkshire Brownfields Program.
Community & Economic Development
Microenterprise Grant Programs Launched in North & South Berkshires

BRPC is pleased to announce two CDBG CV Grant Programs to provide assistance to low-to-moderate (LMI) income microenterprise business owners in northern and southern Berkshire County. The purpose of each Program is to assist LMI microenterprise business owners prepare for, prevent and/or respond to the impacts of COVID-19. Eligible applicants will receive up to $10,000 to cover business costs such as rent, staffing and utilities. These grants have been made available by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (MA DHCD) utilizing funds received from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Small Business Grants through Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has made $50.8 million in grants available to support small businesses, microenterprises, and their employees, families and communities. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) will be administering these funds to businesses experiencing economic hardship and a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These funds were appropriated through the Commonwealth’s Supplemental Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) as well as the CARES Act of 2020 and are divided into two programs, Small Business Grants of up to $25,000 for 5 or fewer employees and Small Business Grants up to $75,000 for 50 or fewer employees.
The application will close at 12:00PM on 11/12/2020. Read more and apply here:
Housing Choice Small Town FY 21 Capital Grant Program
The Housing Choice Small Town FY 21 capital grant program opened in mid-September for applications which will be due by December 11th. This program is exclusively for communities that have an annual population estimate of 7,000 or less from the US census. This program can fund capital projects—construction, modernization, or major repair of physical infrastructure, acquisition of property or interests in property; long-lived equipment; or feasibility, engineering or schematic designs for capital projects. Awards will be made in early 2021 with projects needing to be completed by June 30, 2022. Maximum Grant award: $100,000; there is up to $1 million available for FY 21. Responses to frequently asked questions were recently released. They provide some good ideas about the use of the funds: Read FAQs.

Community Planning
Citizen Planner Training Collaborative Online Training Series

The Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (CPTC) is a collaborative made up of the Massachusetts Dept. Housing & Community Development, UMass Center for Agriculture, Mass Association of Regional Planning Agencies, Mass Chapter American Planning Association, Mass Audubon, Mass Association of Planning Directors, citizen and professional planners. It's mission is to empower land use officials to make effective and judicious decisions in the areas of development, transportation, natural resources and the environment by providing educational opportunities, access to information and resources, and by enhancing cooperation among and integration of land use boards within local government. CPTC provides training designed for Massachusetts Planners, Boards of Appeal, Zoning Enforcement Officers and others interested in land use in Massachusetts. This Fall’s training sessions will be virtual. The full schedule of trainings can be accessed here:
Data & Information Services
Berkshire County Unemployment during COVID-19

In August 2019, Berkshire County employed 65,112 people, with an additional 2,101 unemployed, resulting in a labor force of 67,213 and an unemployment rate of 3.1%. In the intervening year, COVID-19 hit. By August 2020, Berkshire County employed 54,976, with an additional 6,727 unemployed, resulting in a labor force of 61,703 and an unemployment rate of 10.9%. The number employed had dropped to a low of 48,028 in April 2020, and unemployment jumped to a high of 17.8% in June 2020. Read More
The 2020 Census count has come to a close, with over 99.9% of housing units responding in the Worcester district, including Berkshire County. Over 63% of Berkshire County housing units self responded, with the remaining percent completed through in-person visits from the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau will release the final results in the spring of 2021. Contact Mark Maloy for more information on the 2020 Census.
Emergency Preparedness
Monterey Takes Next Steps on Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Project
In September of 2020 the Town of Monterey Select Board was slated to make a decision on the preferred alternative to replace the undersized and outdated metal culvert that allows the Konkapot River to flow under Route 23 and past the Town Hall. With awarded grant funding from the Massachusetts EEA Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant, alternatives were developed by an engineering firm, and analyzed by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Town staff, and residents before the informed decision was made by the Select Board.

The alternatives ranged from replacing the existing culvert with a similarly sized, but square culvert, to incorporating a berm to protect the Town Hall from flooding, to the selected alternative of a new 25-foot bridge. The new 25-foot span crossing will minimize flooding of surrounding structures and restore the Konkapot River’s natural flow pattern. The next step will be for the contracted engineering firm to produce permitting-level designs to enable the Town to begin coordination with regulatory and potential funding agencies. The Town hopes to utilize additional MVP Action Grant funding or FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) funding for construction of the new bridge.
Culvert Replacement at Main Road, Monterey, MA
Environmental & Energy
Berkshire Regional Nonpoint Source Coordinator

BRPC has received funding through a MassDEP competitive grant to support the Massachusetts Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program and carry out nonpoint source pollution mitigation focused work. This project will enable BRPC to assist communities in the development of watershed-based plans and to further develop projects to seek implementation funding through the 319 grant program.

Through this project BRPC will provide services in support of the Nonpoint Source Program by serving as a Regional Coordinator to conduct work that is focused on NPS. BRPC will conduct outreach and education efforts and work with communities to identify regional NPS priorities, develop watershed-based plans, develop and submit high-quality proposals for funding under the 319 competitive grant program, and any other activities that will further the goals of the Nonpoint Source Program. If you have a potential project or if you would like more information, please contact Melissa Provencher. Read More
Regional Services
Attorney General's Small Business Relief Partnership Grant Program

BRPC recently concluded administration of a Mass AGO Small Business Relief Partnership Grant, which provided small businesses in Berkshire County with funds to address fixed debt, payroll, accounts payable, lost sales and other expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. BRPC's grant provided a total of $45,000 to 16 businesses in 10 municipalities, at a maximum of $3,000 per business.
Public Health
Computer Menu
COVID-19 Community Impact Survey

Currently, even people who have not become sick with COVID-19 are managing stress, uncertainty, and isolation during this challenging time. People of color and other communities who have been historically underserved are being hurt the most. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is committed to better serving these communities by learning about their experiences directly through this COVID-19 Community Impact Survey, and using answers to create new solutions.
This survey is intended for anyone 14 and older who lives in Massachusetts. MA-DPH specifically seeks to hear from communities who have suffered the most through this public health emergency. All answers are anonymous.
East-West Rail Study – Draft Document Available for Comment

MassDOT has released a draft study document for public review and comment. This study effort began in December 2018 and after numerous advisory committee meetings, public input meetings and work efforts of the project team, a draft study document is available for public comments.
The East-West Study Draft Report is now available online. Comments are due by November 19th. You can also sign up for study updates.
Transportation & Climate Initiative: Clean Transportation for Rural Communities

BRPC is co-sponsoring an on-line event entitled Transportation Climate Initiative: Clean Transportation for Rural Communities. The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is an initiative of 12 Northeastern states focused on reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector through a regional cap and trade program. 

This event will be an educational opportunity to learn more about the TCI initiative and to discuss how TCI can address the challenges which rural areas are facing. This event is scheduled for Tuesday, November 10th at 7 PM. Learn more and register at: