Legislative Affairs Forum: Central Mass Economic Development Response to COVID-19
(Virtual) Jun 18, 2020 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Uxbridge Board of Health Offers Training for Re-Opening Businesses
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s guidelines, passed down March 18, insist that before any business can reopen, company owners must demonstrate that their workplaces are properly prepared and their managers and employees have been suitably trained.

“That’s why we were delighted,” said Connor Robichaud, CMRPC’ s Regional Projects Coordinator, “when, just six days after the Governor announced his guidelines, Uxbridge’s Health Director Kristin Black introduced two all-inclusive and easy to comprehend training programs for re-opening businesses, where before there were none available.”

The Uxbridge Board of Health’s Employee Training for Essential and Phase 1 Businesses and Presentation for Businesses on Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards  include important information on hygiene and social distancing protocols as required for both Essential and Phase 1 businesses. They should satisfy requirements under the new  Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces according to Kristin Black, who developed them with the help of volunteers from the American Public Health Volunteer Corps (APHVC).  The training programs are available here.
Here’s the Story
Kristin Black, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, has worked for the Uxbridge Board of Health since 2015 and, most recently, has been a valued member of the CMRPC’s Board of Health Networking Initiative. The Networking Initiative came about when the CMRPC was awarded $500,000 from the Department of Public Health to distribute to 39 unaffiliated Boards of Health within the HMCC2 region. In response to many requests from towns for more information, CMRPC’s Connor Robichaud, on March 2, launched a virtual open forum for Central Massachusetts Boards of Health so that town representatives could meet together each week, update their progress, and share their needs and ideas.

On March 25, Governor Baker launched the Academic Public Health Student Volunteer Corps .  Kristin was among the first to apply for APHVC volunteers. She submitted a regional application on behalf of eight surrounding communities that use contract nursing services. The primary focus of the application was for volunteers to support the communities’ shared public health nurse with contact tracing of positive COVID-19 cases.

Tracing COVID-19 victims’ connections, however, was a short-lived venture for the volunteers. The state transferred the COVID contact tracing support to Partners in Health, an organization with more than 30 years of experience battling epidemics. Still, there was a lot for the volunteers to do. All the volunteers on the team were recent graduates of, or studying for, their Masters’ in Public Health degrees at universities and medical schools and able to assist the local boards of heath with other initiatives.

Joann Lindenmayer, an Uxbridge board member with a long history in veterinary medicine and public health, was mentoring a group of Tufts interns when it was suggested that she help supervise the APHVC group. Two joined the team that was publishing Uxbridge’s COVID-19 Weekly Update .  She has been very pleased with the partnership and is guiding more APHVC volunteers on additional projects.

“It is so important to have these interns involved in public health,” Joann says. “It is a vital area and not many get the chance.”

What About Training?

On Monday, May 18, Gov. Baker announced guidelines for a phased in opening for the State. Kristin knew immediately that training was the logical next step to prepare companies planning to return to work. However, when she called around to see if this training was being developed anywhere in the state, she found nothing.

 ” So, we decided to do it ourselves,” Kristin says. “It was a perfect job for the volunteer interns but we really had to scramble,” she says. “We spent some very long days as we put the modules together.”  Kristin wrote the business presentation and five APHVC volunteers put together the longer, employee training module. Their training program was in use the very next week to grateful acclaim.

Kristin has said that anyone who is interested in the training program is free to use it. The Uxbridge team has also developed a disengaged Power Point for organizations that might want insert their own stamp and information on their training

For more information about the Uxbridge COVID-19 training program contact: Kristin Black: kblack@uxbridge-ma.gov .  If you would like to learn more about CMRPC's public health to response to COVID-19 contact: Connor Robichaud: crobichaud@cmrpc.org
Biennial Freight Planning Progress Report Set for Late Summer
The CMRPC Transportation Department is planning to release its biennial regional Freight Planning Progress Report by September 1. The report will provide an overview of ongoing freight planning efforts, focusing mainly on over-the-road trucking and railroad commercial activity in the greater Central Massachusetts region. Addressing a range of federal requirements, this periodic report helps to inform the screening and prioritization of federal-aid funded Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) Mobility2040 Update for 2020 major infrastructure projects. CMRPC has been compiling these reports for over a decade.

The upcoming Freight Planning Progress Report will review continuing efforts to improve access to, and increase the number of, major rest locations in the region for long-distance truck drivers. There will be an updated and expanded regional truck stop location map accompanied by a list of truck stop facilities’ features and services. The report will also include data on daily traffic volume, vehicle classification counts, and heavy vehicle monitoring procedures on critical rural and urban freight corridors.

A new feature of the report, “Highway Freight Accommodation Studies for State Numbered Routes,” will take a closer look at trucking activities in rural parts of the region.  The first installment will focus on CMRPC’s north transportation planning subregion, including the towns of Barre, Oakham, Rutland, Paxton, Holden, Princeton and West Boylston. The report will examine available highway data such as congestion, bridge/culvert, safety and pavement conditions as well as information gleaned from other studies including the region’s Municipal Vulnerability Plans. The resulting data should indicate a range of improvement options for consideration by MassDOT and the CMRPC host communities. Stay tuned.

For more information contact Transportation Project Manager Rich Rydant (pictured above) at rrydant@cmrpc.org.
Teamwork Rules the Day as a Virtual MVP Program is Born
Cruising into 2020, Pete Peloquin (photo)was feeling good about the next six months of the fiscal year. As an associate planner with CMRPC, Pete had been awarded contracts to help eight small towns identify how global warming is threatening their area and how to become resilient. Four such Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) workshops were completed by February 2020, and the deadline for finishing the remaining four was June 30.

Pete is a prodigious planner, a trait that likely harks back to his years in the Coast Guard. By early February, he had it all together – his tools and his props were neatly in a case by his desk. He had met with the core teams of the remaining four towns. Invitation lists were in the works, rooms reserved and a calendar set up for all four workshops throughout the month of April, with listening sessions scheduled throughout the month of May and a clear plan to complete all work by the June 30 deadline. Then the roof fell in.

Then the Roof Fell In

On March 16, under guidelines established by the Baker – Polito Administration, everyone was told to grab their files and anything else they needed and head for home, where they would be “social distancing” (a new term) until the danger of Coronavirus had abated.

Pete was in shock. There were financial penalties involved for towns that did not make the June 30 deadline. All four towns petitioned for an extension.

MVPs are important projects. Governor Baker, in his 2020 State of the State speech, spoke proudly of the number of Massachusetts Communities that had completed such plans and had received state funding to rebuild dams and culverts, clean out underbrush in forests, and upgrade communications to call first responders to action in the event of a disaster. To date some 30 municipalities in CMRPC’s service territories have completed Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plans.

Typically, this planning begins with inviting community leaders to meet in the area’s town hall, or school cafeteria, or church basement to form the core team and discuss areas vulnerable to potential danger – floods, pollution, forest fires etc. Invitations are made and the town comes together for a one- day (eight hour) Community resilience building workshop to identify features, strengths, vulnerabilities; develop actionable items; and vote on priorities. With priorities set, the town leaders will continually meet to agree on plans for helpful change. With the plans certified by the Commonwealth, the towns are eligible for state MVP funding to make the town resilient to climate change.

The new social distancing proviso would change everything, however. What to do? Pete pulled some of his colleagues together and put the question to them: Can we come up with a virtual MVP planning format? The team, which included Assistant Planner Dani Marini, GISP CIS Analyst Matt Franz, and Project Manager Andrew Loew, engineered the new process in less than two weeks.

The Team’s Virtual MVP Relied on Many Internet Tools

When it was completed, the CMRPC Virtual MVP project resembled a showpiece of internet paraphernalia. Zoom was the host platform for the workshop. Dropbox stored materials and provided links to documents, presentations and videos. Zoom recorded the intro video. Zoom recorded the CMRPC presentation. ARC GIS online was used for live edits to the map. Survey Monkey helped to prioritize ideas. G-Mail was the one-stop shop for questions and information. It would require at least five staffers to make the system work. Usually, an MVP meeting required two or three staffers. And, Pete believed that three, rather than two, two-hour sessions, might be needed.

As a group, the team worked out what to do in all eventualities “Such as, what if the internet goes down on the day of the event,” said Pete, rather pessimistically.
The town of North Brookfield agreed to try the virtual MVP Meeting with sessions on April 4, April 6 and, potentially, April 11. The technology worked smoothly and without issue. Everyone who attended all three discussion sessions was passionate about, and knowledgeable of, their town and ways to become more resilient. Participants who took part in the North Brookfield virtual meeting were the core leaders and stakeholders. The attendees were able to provide feedback without issue and were pleased with the results. They seemed very happy over the course of what became three meetings.

“There was mutual agreement that an in-person workshop would have been preferable, but all objectives were still met,” Pete said.

He added: “One huge benefit to virtual meetings is the ability to take the two-hour conversation home with you, think about it over a day or two, and bring back a well-thought-out response or action. This cannot be done as effectively in a one-day workshop.”

A few days after the virtual North Brookfield meeting was completed, the town got the word from the State that their deadline had been extended. The town of Berlin has agreed to participate in a virtual MVP meeting before June 30.

Now that the foundation has been laid, Pete says that he and the MVP team have great confidence in the success of all future virtual workshops.

For more information on how your town can complete a Municipal Vulnerability and Preparedness workshop and plan, contact Pete at: ppeloquin@cmrpc.com

TIP 2021-2025 Schedule Update
The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Organization (CMMPO) endorsed the 2021 – 2025 TIP at the May 20 meeting.  The final materials can be found here.

During the 21-day public comment period staff received comments on the draft TIP from MassDOT, Town of Grafton, Town of Westborough, 495/MetroWest Partnership and Senator Michael Moore. Some changes were made to the highway project listing as well at the TIP summary document. The Blackstone River Bikeway project was removed from 2025 and a Route 146 project between Uxbridge and Worcester was removed from 2024. Within the TIP summary document, additional text was added to various sections of the document to include more explanation of a certain topic.

After endorsement, the final 2021-2025 TIP will be forwarded to MassDOT – Office of Transportation Planning and then sent to the federal partners for their review and final approval. After approval by all parties, the 2021-2025 TIP will take effect on October 1, 2020, which is the start of the next federal fiscal year.

Kevin Krasnecky, Principal Transportation Planner
CMRPC gets MassDOT Honor
CMRPC will receive an Honorable Mention for its Safe Routes to School program at a virtual awards ceremony, June 8 at 10 AM.
The Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program , Sponsored by MassDOT , works to increase safe biking and walking among elementary and middle school students by using a collaborative, community-focused approach that bridges the gap between health and transportation. To learn more about the Safe Routes to School program click here.
There may be funding available for your school to launch a Safe Routes to School program. For more information contact: Josh Chase at jchase@cmrpc.com.

MAPC Announces Funding for Bike Parking Equipment
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MAPC) has announced a procurement program for bicycle parking equipment by all 13 regional planning commissions and 351 Massachusetts cities and towns as well as MassDOT , the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation and all regional planning authorities. The Council has also selected four vendors to participate in the program: Dero, Madraz, Saris and Flycycle.

“This program will encourage bicycle travel by enabling cities and towns to expand bicycle parking at schools, parks, libraries or wherever increased bicycle accessibility is needed,” said Josh Chase, associated transportation planner at CMRPC.

 Key Features of the program:
  • Discounted pricing — typically 20-40 percent off our vendors' regular pricing.
  • Joint purchasing under M.G.L. c.30B by MAPC. Eligible communities simply sign on to our procurement to participate.
  • Full selection of eligible bike-parking equipment:
  • Inverted U racks in multiple styles
  • High-capacity racks that hold up to 14 bikes
  • Cycle stalls for in-street bicycle parking
  • Tool stands
  • Shelters and canopies
  • Stacked parking for tight areas

For more information contact Josh Chase: jchase@cmrpc.org
Alison Novak Joins CMRPC as Homeland Securities Coordinator
Alison Novak MPH has joined the staff of CMRPC’s Regional Collaboration and Community Planning program (RCCP) as Homeland Security coordinator. As such, she will help to manage the Central Region Homeland Security Advisory Council.

“Ali”, as she prefers to be called, worked for the Cambridge Public Health Department as the assistant emergency preparedness coordinator for Public Health Region 4b (Metro Boston) from 2005 to 2017. While working for the Region, she wrote emergency plans, developed drills and exercises, trained staff and volunteers and served as grants administrator for the 27 counties that make up Region 4b.

She also started and administered the Region 4b Medical Reserve Corps and CERT Team – the largest of its kind in the state. Throughout her time at CPHD, she responded to many emergencies such as the 2008 Worcester Ice Storm, the Western Mass. Tornados, Superstorm Nemo, and the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. For the past several years Ali has been working as an independent contractor, taking on many projects involved with public health, public safety and municipalities throughout the Commonwealth, including developing active shooter plans, drills and exercises. 

Ali graduated with honors in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice from The University of Connecticut (Storrs, 2001) and received her Master’s Degree in Public Health Management and Public Policy from Boston University in 2005. When she is not working, Ali enjoys spending time with her two little boys, Jace and Colton, ages five and two respectively.
Obituary: Richard G. Hunt, 80
Richard G. Hunt of Auburn, MA, died at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester on May 22, 2020. Hunt was named associate professor of Geography and Urban Planning at Worcester State College in 1969 and served there for four decades. He also served on the Auburn Planning Board and Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission for many years. Click here for the official obituary.

CMRPC is the Regional Planning Agency for the City of Worcester and 39 Surrounding Municipalities in Southern Worcester County. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in the region.
If you have any questions about the newsletter, please contact  jpierce@cmrpc.org or 508.756.7717.