Fighting Covid-19 Together in Central Mass
When the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) asked CMRPC for help with COVID-19 emergency funds for boards of health in Central Massachusetts, our team got to work contacting the right people and getting the information we needed to allocate $500,000 throughout the region.

 “We quickly learned that we weren’t the only ones looking for information,” observed Connor Robichaud, regional projects coordinator. The small towns were teeming with questions. “Where can we find personal protective equipment (PPE)? When are tests going to be available? We need personnel. How can we find them? What’s an essential business?”

Thus, began a weekly virtual networking meeting to allow the boards of health in Central Massachusetts to trade information, set up regional partnerships, and generally support one another during very difficult times. In the five weeks these meetings have occurred, there were often as many as 25 participants at a session.

In between meetings, CMRPC staff fielded phone calls, sought information and maintained its COVID Resource Hub to provide the latest information and guidelines from the state and the CDC.

The small towns had done a good job of mustering their local resources – Police and Fire Departments, Emergency Management Directors, volunteers. Most were so small, however, that the nearest medical facility was miles away. At the first Central Mass. Boards of Health (BOH) meeting, the majority said they planned to spend the DPH money for PPE and to pay for the services of a public health nurse.

By the second BOH meeting, the towns were already building partnerships to support a shared public health nurse or trade information on where and how to purchase PPE. Charlton had a reserve of personal protective gear that it had purchased with a grant especially for times like these. But the town freely shared its equipment with others that needed it. Uxbridge recruited public health students to help with making contact tracing calls.

In ensuing meetings, health workers discussed how to best coordinate with the new Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) that would provide the additional capacity needed to complete the growing task of contact tracing. They traded policies on social distancing and how to implement guidance from DPH. They also pulled together letters of support for District Local Technical Assistance to continue to support the regional effort.

Here are some of the things they said about the effort.

CMRPC “stepped up to help and make some sense in administering to very different towns during the Pandemic …Dennis M. Costello, Public Health Director, Town of Boylston.

We here in Charlton cannot thank you and your team at CMRPC enough for your support and assistance through this unprecedented time. The funding and support provided have allowed us to take unique steps to attacking this emergency with a united front ,” Andrew S. Golas, Town Administrator, Town of Charlton.

CMRPC has gone a long way to helping de-stress a very stressful situation for small towns with part-time staff and volunteer boards…CMRPC has shown that the Regional Planning Commissions are integral in times of crisis as they so effectively channel the State’s big picture into their region’s towns ,” Nancy Allen, chair, Petersham Select Board, Robert Pasic, chair, Petersham Board of Health.

For more information on the Central Mass. BOH meetings contact Connor Robichaud at crobichaud@cmrpc.org.
It’s Time to Apply for MassDOT Community Transit Grants
The MassDOT Rail and Transit Division has announced that the window of opportunity for applying for a State FY 2021 Community Transit Grant will be open between May 8 and June 26, 2020.
 
Under this competitive program, funds are provided annually to municipalities and some non-profit organizations for vehicle purchase, management activities, and operating costs to meet the transportation and mobility needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities. Additional program details are available through  MassDOT .
 
Previous awards in the CMRPC region have included funding for replacement vehicles for the Town of Blackstone and the Oxford and Shrewsbury Councils on Aging.   Additional awards include operating funds for expansion of service in Holden, and communities served by SCM Elderbus.
 
CMRPC Transit staff is able to assist with any communities that are considering applying for grant funds. Please contact Connie Mellis ( cmellis@cmrpc.org ), or Nick Burnham ( nburnham@cmrpc.org ) with any questions.
TIP 2021-2025 Schedule Update
The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Organization (CMMPO) released the Draft 2021 – 2025 TIP for a 21-day public review and comment period at the April 22 meeting. The draft materials can be found here: http://cmrpc.org/tip.

During the public comment period, staff will hold a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 5:00 PM. Details for attending the virtual public meeting will be posted on the CMRPC website prior to the meeting. If you wish to provide comments on the Draft 2021-2025 TIP and cannot attend the public meeting, comments can be sent to CMRPC staff prior to the deadline of Wednesday, May 13 by 4:30 PM. Contact Kevin Krasnecky at kkrasnecky@cmrpc.org or Rich Rydant at rrydant@cmrpc.org

Once the public comment period has completed, the 2021-2025 TIP will likely be endorsed by the CMMPO at its May 20 meeting. Any comments received will be incorporated into the document or Technical Appendix. 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.

Congestion Management Process (CMP) Report Highlights Traffic Congestion; Offers Answers
See how you score on this quiz for Massachusetts drivers:

1.       What’s the most congested intersection in the City of Worcester?
2.       Which Worcester road section takes the most time to transverse?
3.        During rush hour, which Millbury intersection causes the highest average of encountered delay.
4.        What’s the busiest Park-N-Ride Car Lot in Central Massachusetts?
5.        Name the highest use rush-hour bicycle & pedestrian intersection?

The answers to these questions and more are contained in the 2019 Congestion Management Process (CMP) Report which was completed earlier this year. The numbers are based on a 10 -year average compiled by CMRPC staff and published annually.

The process of studying and analyzing highway congestion and proposing corrections began in the mid-1990s through a partnership comprising MassDOT , the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) , the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and other organizations. An operational CMP is required for all Massachusetts metropolitan areas. Data collected through the CMP are used by municipalities to request funding for Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP).

Answers: 1. Foster St/Francis J. McGrath/Franklin St.& Green St.; 2. Park Ave. from Main St. to Grove St.; 3. Route 122/Mass Pike; 4. Rt.20 @ 1-90 Exit 10A; 5. Foster St./Front St.
Diane Shea: Taking on a New Job in Extraordinary Times
Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) is pleased to announce the recent hiring of Diane Shea to the position of Business Manager. Shea joins CMRPC with over 25+ years of finance experience in both the private and public sector. Shea comes to us from the Worcester Regional Transit Authority, where for over past 10 years, she grew to manage the finance team and grant management programs. As CMRPC’s Business Manager, Shea will be responsible for the ongoing and future business functions of the agency.

Shea joined CMRPC on April 1, 2020, and is currently transitioning into her new role while working from home due to the unusual circumstances that we are facing as a result of the Coronavirus situation. When asked how she is adapting to the new role, Shea responded “it has certainly been an interesting way to start a new position. Fortunately, through virtual meetings I’m able to meet the CMRPC staff. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to have Dianna” Provencher, current Business Manager, “introduce me to the business functions of the agency prior to her upcoming retirement at the end of June which is helping to ease the transition.” So, while it is an unusual time, it is not an uncomfortable start to a new position.  In fact, it may very well be an advantage.
CMRPC Website Enhancement Plans
Fresh from the plans underway to enhance the CMRPC website, here is a tax map showing a comparison of the residential tax rate in 2010 and 2020 .  The rates shown are listed per $1,000 of valuation. The data is sourced from Massachusetts Department of Revenue Division of Local Services.

For more information contact Rob Raymond at rraymond@cmrpc.org
Oh, the Places You’ll Go… 
As we work from home, officed in the ether of the internet, perhaps it is worth considering where we have come from. It may be startling to learn that in less than 60 years CMRPC’s office address has changed nearly a dozen times. Each move signaled growth in the work of the CMRPC and its staff, and in the modernization of the city of Worcester.

Before it was an entity, it was just a mailing address: 390 Main Street. After being formally established by an act of the state legislature in 1963, CMRPC opened its first office on the northwest corner of Belmont St. and North Lake Ave. Still in use, the structure’s curved façade and blue colored brick is very distinctive mid-20 th century architecture.

In 1965, the Commission moved to the Harvard St. Mansion House, which is no longer standing. The Mansion House occupied the space at the northeast corner of the Harvard St. – State St. intersection, adjacent to State Court House, now under redevelopment. Within a year the office moved several city blocks to 70 Elm St, where it stayed for ten years. In 1977, CMRPC moved across the street to 71A Elm St. Both addresses have been replaced by more modern structures.

A major move to the Commerce Building, 340 Main St., Suite 727, occurred in 1981. After a few years, the office moved to suite 747 in the Commerce Building. Then, in 1993, the Commission moved to 20 Washington St., a renovated meat packing plant across the street from the then-decrepit Union Station.

Four years later, the Commission moved to 25 Harvard St. across from its 1965 location. In 2007, the Commission found its home in Worcester’s Union Station Intermodal Transportation Center. The Commission stayed there for ten years.

In late 2017, CMRPC moved to its current home, in the UNUM Building at One Mercantile St., on the grounds of a former two-level shopping mall, The Worcester Center Galleria.

Researched by Rich Rydant, Transportation Project Manager
Most Days, Technology Saves the Day
Now, well into our second month of social distancing, there’s no question that our technology support specialists are playing a crucial role in our ability to work from home (WFH). Matt Franz is the Commission’s GIS analyst but he also manages and supports the Commission’s internet technology. These days he’s doing triple-duty as a first responder when anyone needs help with technology. 

Anthony Senesi, administrative assistant, splits his time between work with the Regional Collaboration and Community Planning team and internet communications. In the six months he has been with the Commission, he has been the go-to guy for website postings and most online communications including this newsletter.

In the first weeks of WFH, technology staff spent most of their time talking colleagues through the vicissitudes of setting up their home computers to be able to work remotely. Every now and then an office PC freezes or gets powered off which means trouble for remote workers trying to access their files. Luckily, CMRPC has an amazing team of staff volunteers who are willing to go into the office and power up the PC’s.
 
Meanwhile, Matt’s regular workload, which includes providing GIS services and maps for our partners in Central Massachusetts hasn’t skipped a beat. These include working on numerous community assessors’ maps, providing web-based mapping portals and general GIS support through the subscription service called MuniGIS. This spring, CMRPC will also be working on a region-wide trail mapping project through a MassTrails grant with the goal being to create an online inventory of trails in the region.
 
Anthony Senesi has been working with Commission staff and some of our regional partners in setting up video conferencing. While we all miss the camaraderie of get-togethers, we are relying like never before on Zoom, Go-To-Meeting and other technology to get our work done. Anthony has helped set up a number of these meetings. In fact, in the absence of together-time, Anthony is working with the Town of Barre to organize a diverse group of residents to help in planning its 250 th  Anniversary in 2020.
 
Both Matt and Anthony understand that many of us are experiencing our greatest reliance ever on communications technology for a broad range of needs- personal, business, education, social engagement and more. “It will be interesting to see what changes all the WFH we’re doing will make in our lives,” Matt says.

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.