Upcoming Meetings and Events
A Letter from CMRPC's Executive Director
Dear Friends:

This year, residents of Massachusetts have an opportunity to do one of the most important things they can possibly do to support their cities and towns. That is, stand up and be counted in the 2020 Federal Census. Invitations will go out in March to all homes and individuals of record. This year, for the first time, residents can participate online as well as by mail – or you can wait until one of the volunteer “enumerators”, likely a neighbor, comes to your door.

Your participation is important in so many ways that cities and towns are forming “Complete Count Committees” to make certain that they identify all residents in their districts. Every man, woman and child, regardless of age, nationality and/or citizenship who resides in a district for six months plus one day this year is entitled to a count for that district. This includes college students, snowbirds and visitors from abroad. No worries. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code of Federal Law to protect the personal information you provide during the census.

It's been estimated that for every individual that's not counted on the Census, your town can lose more than $2,400 of federal funding. Moreover, another 10 years will pass before there’s an opportunity to make up that loss.

Census-related funding is channeled to cities and towns, based on population, for programs to assist the elderly, the disabled, and veterans, support education, attract new business, rebuild and repair roadways, design public safety strategies, provide housing assistance and rehabilitation, and pay for a host of other important systems that local areas depend upon to serve and support their residents. Further, evidence of population loss can lead to redistricting that may diminish a region’s voice in state and federal government.

For all these reasons, we recommend that municipalities start now to form Complete Count Committees. These are partnerships between state and local governments, community- based organizations, faith-based groups, schools, businesses, the media and others to work together to support the 2020 Federal Census.
If you live in South Central Worcester County make sure you fill out your survey form. If your community would like help in starting a Complete Count Committee, the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission can help. Check out our website www.cmrpc.org or contact me directly jpierce@cmrpc.org.

Sincerely,
 
Janet Pierce
Executive Director
Start a Complete Count Committee Today!
Cities and towns throughout Massachusetts are developing “ Complete Count Committees ” to make certain their municipality gets its fair share of Census Funding.

A Complete Count Committee is a volunteer committee established to increase awareness about, and motivate residents to respond to, the 2020 Federal Census. These committees work best when they include a broad section of trusted voices from local government, tribal government, education, business, religious organizations, and the media, among other leaders that know and serve their community.

CMRPC can help you put together such a committee and make sure you don’t miss out. There’s still time. Contact Rob Raymond: rraymond@cmrpc.org.  
MassDOT Approves $463K in Funding For Area Workforce Transportation 
MassDOT has approved $463,400 in Workforce Transportation Grants for four important projects in South Central Worcester County. These include $290,400 to the WRTA for bus service between Webster and Sturbridge; $90,000 to the MART for an expanded Fitchburg to Worcester Shuttle Service; $50,000 to expand Quaboag Connector hours; and $33,000 to CMRPC to explore the desirability, feasibility and viability for developing a Transportation Management Association (TMA) in Central Massachusetts.

“We are grateful to MassDOT for funding to improve workforce transportation in South Central Massachusetts, and we congratulate the WRTA, MART and the Quabog Connector for the plans they are making for this growing area of the state,” said Sujatha Krishnan, CMRPC deputy director of Transportation. “We are also excited about the opportunity to analyze how a TMA can improve transportation in Worcester County.

How Would a TMA Work in Central Mass?
A Transportation Management Association (TMA) is a non-profit membership organization made up of employers, developers, and property managers working together to address transportation , air quality, and commuter issues in a defined geographic area. Typically, TMA operations are not limited to mass transit, but explore the many ways that mobility occurs, including, but not limited to, car and bus travel, walking and bicycling.  In Massachusetts, there are TMAs in the City of Boston and around the MA-128 corridor but none operating in Central Massachusetts.

“A TMA can reduce congestion in Central Massachusetts by providing new mobility options for employees and job seekers, thereby increasing the job attraction rate of the region’s employers and supporting their sustainability programs” Krishnan said. “Air quality will improve with the decline in the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips.” She added however, that “stakeholders and employers will have the opportunity to be a part of the discussion and ultimate decision-making.

“Transportation studies have long identified gaps in transit access to jobs in Central Massachusetts. These include riders’ costs, limited hours of operation and gaps in ground service to and from transit stations,” Krishnan said. The 12-month exploration phase of the study proposed by the CMRPC would be a “co-creation” process that would rely on local expertise to “uncover local solutions unique to the Central Massachusetts region,” she said.

The WRTA, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, 495/MetroWest Partnership, major employers and Central MassHire will be partners in the venture.  CMRPC will be the lead partner, on behalf of the Central Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization. If you'd like to get involved with the Central Massachusetts TMA, sign up here.
Need Answers on Stormwater Mitigation?
Sign Up for April Environmental Meeting
If your town is worried about the increasing ferocity of local storms and the viability of your culverts and related systems to protect residents from flooding and stormwater damage, then you should attend the Annual CMMPO Environmental Consultation (EC) Meeting, April 9, at 10 am, at CMRPC headquarters.

This year’s EC meeting will feature a guest from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) who will speak on funding opportunities for culvert replacement and the ecological and flood resiliency benefits associated with replacement. CMRPC staff has also invited local officials who can share their experience with environmental mitigations such as culvert replacement.

We are expecting a lot of interest in this meeting so please RSVP soon so we can register a list with our building security, a requirement for entry. For questions or additional information contact Assistant Transportation Planner Zack Blais at 508-459-3322 or zblais@cmrpc.org . CMRPC headquarters is at 1 Mercantile St., Worcester, MA 01608.
Spotlight on Kerrie Salwa – A Questor
When you start a conversation with anyone at CMRPC, it soon becomes apparent there is way more there than meets the eye. 
 
Take Kerrie Salwa, who is a principal planner at the Commission. As a child, she wanted to be a fighter pilot. She laughs at that now, but in the two years she has worked at CMRPC, it’s clear that she has channeled a fighter pilot’s fierceness, passion and drive into her work for the small towns and organizations she represents. Outstanding among these are the Town of North Brookfield, and the Southern Worcester County Economic Development Organization. But more about that later.

From Sea to Land

Kerrie originally studied biology at Westfield State University. After a summer’s internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where she lived on a boat and worked in an aquarium, she discovered that she wasn’t cut out to devote her life to fish. She found that she was more excited about people, homes and habitat.  She switched to a double major in geography and regional planning. 
 
Right out of college, Kerrie got a job as downtown planner with the Town of Clinton, MA. It was an education in itself, she says. While working in Clinton, she volunteered with then State Rep. Harriette Chandler’s initial run for State Senate. When Chandler won, she offered Kerrie a job on her staff as her legislative aide. That led to a job as business and economic development planner for the City of Leominster, and then-- a big time out.

Seven Really Busy Years

Kerrie opened a bar called The Spillway, in Clinton, and managed it for seven years. During this time, she and her husband welcomed twin daughters into their family. As a neighborhood bar proprietor, Kerrie hosted fundraisers for charitable organizations and became more deeply involved in some of them. It was a very busy life. After she closed the bar, Kerrie went back to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Framingham State.
 
“I graduated on a Sunday evening and a day later I started work at CMRPC,” Kerrie recalls. About that, she says, “I have never worked in such a completely positive, energetic environment. Everyone there is so bright and each planner brings something different to the table.”
North Brookfield Town and Townhouse

Her first assignment was to help the Friends of the North Brookfield Townhouse get funding to renovate the historic building. Built in 1864, Townhouse had been the center of many community special events but, by 2002, was declared structurally unstable. In trying to raise money to restore the old building, residents heard from funding organizations that encouraged them to first complete a strategic plan that would promote use for the building as well as more business for the town. Kerrie was invited in and worked with the team to complete the plan. To date, North Brookfield has begun raising money to renovate the Townhouse and to pursue growth downtown that make the center more attractive and improve mobility for residents.

Southern Worcester County Economic Development Organization (SWC EDO)

Two years ago, the Worcester Chamber of Commerce began developing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Southern Worcester County. Kerrie joined the work team on her first day with CMRPC to help develop local participation and support for the plan.  It was intensive work, with many meetings and drafts of a proposed plan and application, and Kerrie is up to her elbows in it.
 
The CEDS was approved last fall by the District Economic Development Agency in Philadelphia. The application is currently with the U.S. Economic Development Agency in Washington awaiting Southern Worcester County’s designation as an Economic Development District. (The designation makes the region eligible for funding and other resources to meet their goals.) 
 
 Not wanting to skip a beat, Kerrie is helping staff the SWC EDO by developing working teams to pursue each of the five major strategies the plan endorses. So, what’s next for planner, one-time bar owner and former fighter pilot enthusiast? Kerrie smiles: “I’m happy to be here. I enjoy working with our team and getting to know the ins and outs of this region. There is no doubt this is a great time to be working in downtown Worcester.  I am excited by the enthusiasm I am seeing on the Southern Worcester County Economic Development Committees, and I am open to what comes next but my goal is to continue the volunteer work I do in my home town of Clinton, and to keep working towards becoming a town administrator.”
Central Mass. Plans for Climate Change
In his State-of-the-State Speech in January, Mass. Gov. Charles Baker, boasted about the State’s Municipal Vulnerability Program (MVP) to address climate change, noting that “ We created the first (MVP) in the country…more than 285 communities have joined us…we are committed to expanding this essential program to all 351 communities” in the state.

Communities in CMRPC’s service territory have wasted little time developing MVP plans to identify areas where they are vulnerable to climate change. At present, nearly all of the 40 municipalities in South Central Worcester County are in some stage of weather-related disaster planning.

CMRPC is in the process finalizing MVP plans for Barre, Douglas, Dudley and Westborough. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs recently released its Fy2020 awards list for MVP grants, which includes Berlin, North Brookfield, Princeton and Sturbridge. While other vendors provide this service, this latest list brings to 13 the number of Central Mass communities that have enlisted CMRPC services in developing their plans.

“In our region, winter storms, the abundance of waterways and increased flooding usually construe to top the list of identified hazards,” said Associate Planner Pete Peloquin, who is leading CMRPC’s MVP schedule. “Aging infrastructure, obstacles to communication and outreach, and the risk of forest fires are also a source of community concern.

“Most climate researchers agree that local knowledge is the best way to assess local problems,” Peloquin added. “That’s why community resilience-building workshops of this kind succeed.”

The MVP process begins with core team selection including members from the municipality, other stakeholders, and the CMRPC. Each core team is led by a project coordinator from the community. This process is followed by at least three core team meetings, and an eight-hour community workshop in which the team collects ideas and information from invited guests. A draft report is conveyed to the residents in what is called a “listening session”. After comments are added from the listening session, the report is finalized and sent to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Planning for approval.

Upon approval of the program, communities will be designated a “Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Community,” MVP Communities are eligible to apply for MVP Action Grant funding. Awards can range from $25,000 to $2 million. The next round of funding for MVP programming is expected to be announced this spring.
For more information on MVP planning contact Pete Peloquin: ppeloquin@cmrpc.org
Who Says It’s Not Easy to be Green?
Would your community like to win a coveted “ Green Community ” designation? It’s easier than you think and has so many benefits for your residents. In Southern Worcester County, nearly eight out of 10 communities have taken the leap and are glad they did. Here’s why: 

1)     It’s easy : For one thing there’s funding assistance available to get your program started. CMRPC can help your town develop and complete an energy reduction plan and ensure that you meet all the required criteria for Green Community designation. 

2)     There’s big money available : Once your town gets the designation, you are eligible to apply for grants to sustain energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that will save your town and your taxpayers on energy costs. In CMRPC’s service territory alone, a total of $5.6 million has been awarded to date through Green Community designations. Once again, CMRPC can help you all the way through this phase of your program. – from assisting you in grant writing to helping you secure the best contractors to reach your goals.

Most recently, three CMRPC towns received significant funding through Green Community designation. They are Oxford ($163,880), Spencer ($162,800), and West Brookfield ($134,910). You could be next.

3.     There are so many things that you can do : Here is a list of projects that can apply to any municipal building from schools, emergency services stations and libraries to water treatment plants and Town Commons:

Common Authorized Projects
·          Lighting (interior, exterior) including controls
·          Energy Management Systems (EMS) upgrade
·          Weatherization
·          Oil to gas/electric heating
·          Mechanical Upgrades
·          Heating/Cooling System Controls
·          Retro-Commissioning
·          Building Automation Systems
·          LED Streetlight Conversion

Please reach out to Sarah Adams at sadams@cmrpc.org with any questions about CMRPC’s Green Communities designation or Grant Administration programs.
Gemma Wilkens – From Intern to Employee at CMRPC
Three times a year, spring, summer and fall, Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) hires one or two interns to assist its professional planners. The posts last for 12 to 16 weeks, pay $13 per hour, and are highly sought after among undergraduate and Masters’ level students in programs such as environmental science, urban planning, geography, political science or related fields.

Gemma Wilkens, 25, applied for an Internship as she approached the conclusion of her studies toward a Master of Science in Geographic Information Services at Clark University. When she started her internship in January, she had her Master's degree along with an impressive resume that spanned work as a data analyst human services, as a research fellow in Clark University’s Economics Honors Research Program, as a researcher at the George Perkins Marsh Institute and much more. Part way through her internship, Gemma accepted a full-time position as a Data Analyst with CMRPC. Here is what she has to say about the internship:

Why did you apply to CMRPC for an internship?
Before my internship at CMRPC, planning was not a field that had crossed my mind. Having studied economics as an undergraduate and worked on my Master's in GIS, I wanted to find opportunities to use my GIS skills in a social sciences capacity. As I went about my internship search planning jobs kept popping up. The fact that CMRPC had a community focus and an altruistic mission appealed to me as well and I took a chance and applied – I’m glad that I did!

Did CMRPC give you constructive work? (Name some of your projects.)
The staff at CMRPC gave me opportunities to interact with a multitude of projects – I was never bored! I did everything from creating maps and analyzing data to creating presentations and speaking to residents. As an intern some of my projects included an Economic Plan in Upton, a Strategic Plan in North Brookfield, and an interactive map of Complete Streets data.

What did you like best about the Internship?
The staff at CMRPC were so, so supportive. They encouraged me to put my mark on projects. Unlike any internship I have had in the past, at CMRPC I had the opportunity to bring my ideas and input to the table. Overall it has been a pleasure working here. Everyone I interacted with was incredibly knowledgeable, willing to answer questions and excited about what they do!

Would you recommend that others apply for an internship with CMRPC ?
I would absolutely recommend this internship. If you want a chance to see every component of planning, work with an amazing group of people, and put your skillset to good work you should apply to intern here.

CMRPC will be interviewing for the 12-week summer internship program in April. For more information contact Kerrie Salwa at ksalwa@cmrpc.org 

Old Leicester Firehouse Sold at Auction
Buyers lined up at 9:30 a.m. on Jan, 29, to bid at auction on the old Center Fire Station at 15 Water Street in the Town of Leicester. The 4,000 sq. ft. building, in the Town's central business district, went for $140,000, which was above its assessed value. “It’s fantastic to see another property put to productive use and move onto the Town’s tax rolls,” said CMRPC Regional Projects Coordinator Connor Robichaud. If your town is interested in using CMRPC’s contract for Auctioneer Services with the Zekos Group, contact Connor: crobichaud@cmrpc.org.
TIP Committee Qualifies Two More Proposals
Two additional proposed Transportation Improvement Projects (TIP) have qualified for the 2025 roster bringing the total to five new requests for funding in the current cycle. A preferred option on these five requests will be announced at the TIP Workshop on March 18.
A final draft will be announced in April, subject to a 21-day period for comment.

The additions were proposed at a CMMPO meeting on Feb. 19. The new proposals included a bikeway project in the Town of Blackstone that involves restoration of an arched concrete viaduct presented the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation. The second new project is a proposed pedestrian bridge in the Town of Westborough and was presented by MassDOT. The bridge would replace the closed Fisher St. bridge that spans the MBTA tracks just west of the Westborough T-Station. These proposals were added to projects recommended earlier by Northborough, Shrewsbury and Worcester.

The February 19 meeting also considered status updates by communities programmed in the FFY 2021. The three presenting communities were Grafton, Hardwick and New Braintree.   

For more information contact Kevin Krasnecky:  kkrasnecky@cmrpc.org
From the Pages of History....
March 1976 was a banner month for transportation in Massachusetts. It was then, forty-four years ago, that the Central Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization (CMMPO) was established by federal fiat to ensure cooperative decision making among the major transportation agencies in the State. The original four signatories of the CMMPO (shown seated here) were: John Carroll, of the Mass. Department of Public Works (MDPW), Donald Ware, CMRPC chairman, Robert Johnson of the Worcester Rail Transit Authority (WRTA) and Transportation Secretary Frederick Salvucci, of the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (EOTC). These men promised to ensure that transportation planning would be Comprehensive, Continuing and Cooperative – known as the 3-C Process – through formal meetings held on a regular basis. These meetings and the attendant spirit of cooperation go on to this day through the CMMPO.

-Rich Rydant, CMRPC Project Manager
Meeting Highlights Around the Region
MARPA/MassDOT Transportation Meeting

(Worcester, Jan. 29) – Speakers provided background on anticipated funding for programs in FFY 2021, including the following projections: Funding for the Unified Planning Work program will likely remain the same in FFY 2021, but is expected to decline slightly in FFY 2022… The FFY 2021-2025 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) may be impacted by potentially less funding from the U.S. DOT…The Baker Administration has proposed an $18 Billion Bond Bill for road and bridge improvements throughout the state. Click here for an update on the State’s mileage-based exit renumbering project.

495/MetroWest Partnership’s Roundtable on Transportation Revenue

(Westborough, Feb. 4) – Jason Palitsch, newly appointed executive director, welcomed the audience to a panel discussion, which included Joshua Ostroff, Partnership’s director of transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA); Richard Parr, research director, MassINC Polling Group, and Tom Ryan, director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, A Better City. The panel provided an overview of transportation needs in the region and funding sources. In the near future, the partnership plans to issue a position statement on the multimodal transportation network serving the greater region. They will be especially interested in input from Partnership’s business community members.

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.