Legislative Affairs Forum:
Policy to Improve the Local Public Health System in Massachusetts
Friday, November 6, 10am
November Quarterly Meeting
The Spectrum of Diverse Perspectives
Thursday, November 12, 7pm
Regional MVP Community Best Practices Workshop
On September 15, 2020 the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary Theoharides announced the FY21 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Planning and Action Grant awards in Fitchburg. A total of $11.1 million in grants were awarded throughout the Commonwealth. Since the MVP Programs inception in 2017, the grant program has enrolled 89% of the Commonwealth and awarded $44 million in Action grants to assist communities work towards climate change resiliency.

CMRPC’s communities are no strangers to the MVP program. In the last three years, 27 of CMRPC’s communities have completed the MVP Planning process. The recent announcement has brought that total up to 32 out of 40 communities. CMRPC has been fortunate to have partnered with 15 communities in the certification process. To date, there have been 10 Action Grants awarded to seven different communities with-in the Region. Totaling just shy of $3.2 million invested in the Central Region. 

Pete Peloquin, Associate Planner at CMRPC runs the in-house MVP program and had this to say, “It has been a privilege to assist 9 communities with the beginning stages of planning for climate resiliency. I am looking forward to working with the newest four communities. It is a privilege to be invited into the community and to get an in depth look at how well a group of people can critically think about bettering the future of the community. I honestly believe the MVP program is the perfect program to jump start a community into taking action. I believe every community who takes part in the MVP program walks away a better-connected community. The workshop really helps to connect people and efforts, that in turn spills over into all other planning efforts in town.”
As part of the Town of Auburn’s MVP Action Grant, CMRPC, Auburn and their consultant Fuss and O’Neill will host a Regional MVP Certified Community Best Practices Workshop. “Now that 95% of our region has become certified, this is the perfect time to look into building regional partnerships and projects.” The goal of the upcoming three-hour regional workshop is to develop and share local MVP program obstacles and opportunities, understand the community’s needs and goals, create opportunities for regional projects, partnerships and foster open communication between MVP certified communities within the region. The workshop is expected to be held virtually on November 2nd from 10am - 1pm.

If you would like to attend the workshop or for more information regarding the MVP program contact Pete Peloquin, Associate Planner [email protected]

Photo: Massachusetts Central Rail Trail in New Braintree
WRTA Introduces New Service in Westborough
WRTA is pleased to announce the launch of a pilot on-demand micro-transit service in Westborough which began September 22, 2020. This service is being funded through MassDOT’s FY20 Discretionary Funding Program for RTAs. CMRPC Staff assisted with the grant application, and will provide project support and service planning. Funding through this program allowed WRTA to partner with Via, a global transportation company, whose technology enables on-demand shared rides through routing determined by Via’s algorithm. This is the first public-private micro-transit partnership in central Massachusetts.

Service is available to anyone who wants to travel within the service zone, from Northborough Crossing, to Bay State Commons, or to the Westborough or the Southborough MBTA commuter rail stations and is available weekdays 7am-7pm. Service is provided using 4 vehicles (including one wheelchair-accessible vehicle).

This service is free of charge until October 22nd. After that, trips to and from the MBTA Westborough and Southborough commuter rail stations will be $1, and all other trips within the service zone will be $2.

This on-demand transit service will provide residents and employees much needed flexibility and ensure that there are affordable and convenient transportation options available. To use the service, riders can download the Via app from the Apple Store, or Google Play. For more information, please visit the Via-WRTA website.
CMRPC Communities are Seeing Green
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Green Communities Division recently awarded over $1.9 million in Green Communities Competitive Grant funding to fourteen CMRPC communities. Of the fourteen CMRPC communities that received competitive grant awards, CMRPC staff assisted eight with completing and submitting their grant applications, and will also help them with grant administration. The following are the award amounts these towns received:

Examples of the energy efficiency and clean energy projects that were funded include EV charging stations in both Blackstone and Warren, a hybrid police cruiser in Warren, LED streetlight replacements in Leicester, a boiler replacement with fuel conversion in Millville, energy management systems at the schools in both Uxbridge and Dudley, and LED lighting replacements in municipal buildings in many of the towns.

In addition to these competitive grants, the towns of Oxford, Spencer, and West Brookfield, all designated as Green Communities earlier this year, also each received designation grants and will soon begin to implement their projects.

Of the 40 communities in our region, 31 are designated Green Communities, with two towns (Hopedale and Princeton) working on achieving designation this year. To become a Green Community, cities or towns must meet five criteria that demonstrate their commitment and path toward reducing municipal energy usage by 20% over five years. Upon designation they receive funding for an initial round of projects, and once these are completed, they are eligible to apply for competitive grant funds of up to $200,000. Eligible projects include a wide range of energy conservation measures for municipal buildings, facilities and vehicles.

CMRPC has been helping the towns in our region to become designated as Green Communities since 2014. We have also helped these communities once they are designated to apply for competitive grant funding, administer their designation and competitive grants, and complete their annual reports to the state. Two sources of funding have been instrumental in allowing CMRPC to help with designation and grant applications, as well as annual reports: District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) and Regional Energy Planning Assistance (REPA).         

District Local Technical Assistance is funding provided by the Commonwealth through the state budget for distribution among the 13 regional planning agencies in order to provide technical assistance to member communities. CMRPC has leveraged DLTA funds to designate or otherwise assist 23 towns within the Green Communities program since 2014. The DLTA funding for this assistance has totaled approximately $110,000 and has resulted in those 23 communities receiving more than $6.8 million in Green Communities funding!

REPA is a funding program through the DOER allocated specifically for regional planning agencies to assist communities with energy planning. CMRPC staff use REPA funds to help our Green Communities towns with their annual reports and to apply for competitive grant funding. We are currently assisting 19 towns with their FY20 annual reports! This is a great help to towns, particularly the smaller towns with less staff capacity to manage reporting requirements and grant applications.

It is very exciting to see our region green up as communities reduce their energy use and their greenhouse gas emissions, and save on energy costs in the process. As Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito stated, “The Green Communities program gives our dedicated municipal partners the resources they need to continue making progress in increasing energy efficiency and lowering energy costs. We look forward to seeing the continued growth in energy innovation and energy savings that these grants will enable in towns and cities across the Commonwealth.” 
Take Nothing But Trail Map Data, Leave Nothing But Footprints
Trails, walking paths, and greenways can provide numerous benefits to communities, despite being undervalued or overlooked. From recreational opportunities to environmental protection and appreciation, trails are an integral part of a community’s open space and recreation. In addition, trails can help improve a community’s walkability, enhancing both transportation and public health. And as a tourist attraction, trails can be useful in drawing in businesses and other economic benefits to a community. 

Understanding that trails are more than meets the eye, CMRPC applied for and received a 2019 MassTrails Grant from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to develop a user-friendly Southern Worcester County Comprehensive Trail guide. With this grant, CMRPC seeks to create a comprehensive web-based regional trails guide and app. The hope is that this online regional map will serve as an archive for all trail features and locations throughout Worcester County. CMRPC staff have already begun an inventory of trails in the region but need help from Central Massachusetts communities to complete this project. As a part of the grant, CMRPC purchased a Trimble Geo 7X handheld GPS unit in order to collect and map trail data throughout the region.

Staff have already collected data along trails in Millbury and Northborough, and are actively searching for other trails to map. If your community has any unmapped trails or outdated trails data, please contact CMRPC to learn if your community could benefit from this project. CMRPC wants to increase accessibility and knowledge of existing outdoor recreation opportunities for communities in Central Massachusetts, and this regional trails map is the first step in accomplishing this goal.

Do you know of any unmapped trails in your community? Contact Dani Marini, Assistant Environmental Planner, at [email protected] to learn more and discuss trail data collection.  

Photo: Massachusetts Central Rail Trail in New Braintree
CMRPC Staff Members Become Poll Workers
Election poll workers are crucial to the democratic process. Three CMRPC staff members, Connie Mellis, Ian McElwee, and Gemma Wilkens, have answered the call. “Although I conceptually understood that voting necessarily plays out locally, seeing the people that come together to make it happen, particularly those that return year after year, drives home the privilege of having my vote counted”, stated Gemma Wilkens, Planning Data Analyist. Gemma and Associate Planner, Ian McElwee decided to become poll workers during this election cycle. “I decided to become a poll worker because I think it’s critical to be involved in the voting and election process as an American” stated Ian McElwee.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there has been higher turnover of poll workers. The importance of their collective work has never been greater. “While a pandemic is certainly not the ideal time for any election, I’m proud to be a small part of our election process and have been humbled by our collective creativity, strength and perseverance to make sure it happens in a fair and open manner”, stated Connie Mellis, Principal Planner.

If you are interested in becoming a poll worker, contact your local election or Town Clerk’s office for more information. 
Canteen Services Provided to the Central Region
In 2009, the Central Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (CRHSAC) procured a Canteen Vehicle. The vehicle was paid for under a grant from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) for the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP). The American Red Cross “hosted” the vehicle from 2009 through the Spring of 2020. During that period of time canteen services were provided to first responders at countless structure fires, the tornado of 2011 and the Cape Cod tornado of 2019. Services were also provided to displaced family due to structure fires. It is the American Red Cross’s policy to remove all vehicles from their fleet at the ten-year mark and the vehicle was returned to the Council in perfect condition.

As news of the availability of the vehicle spread throughout the Central Region, the Council received numerous letters of interest to become the next host of the canteen. Through much deliberation, the Council unanimously voted to allow Leominster Emergency Management to become the new “host” of the canteen.

Leominster Emergency Management (LEM) is headed by Director, James LeBlanc who has a long and storied background in emergency management. Jim has built an Emergency Management Department with roughly 80 volunteers, nearly 50 volunteers are highly active in LEM’s services, support, maintenance and training.  Over the last 40 years, Jim has been providing canteen services to the Cities of Leominster, Fitchburg, Fire District 8, the Central Region and those who have been displaced by a fire. According to Jim, one of his proudest moments was being the first canteen service to arrive at the 1999, Worcester Cold Storage fire. Jim and his team provided such exceptional services, they were assigned by the Fire Commissioner to provide on scene food and refreshments. Jim and his crew worked 24/7 for nine days providing much-needed relief to the regions Fire Fighters who bravely battled the blaze.

Currently, Leominster operates canteen services out of a canteen truck built in 1968. Due to the vehicles age and style of transmission, there are only two qualified people to operate the truck. With the addition of the CRHSAC asset, all members of LEM who qualify will now be able to comfortably provide services to Central Region’s 62 communities.

Since receiving the canteen, LEM has installed a vehicle wrap, new serving counter and window, replaced the propane tank and all propane lines, installed a state-of-the-art fire suppression system and had a protective undercoat sprayed to lengthen the life of the vehicle. All upgrades to the canteen have been funded through volunteer hours and a generous $10,000 donation from the Nickel family, in honor of their father, Wayne Nickel. Mr. Nickel dedicated a lifetime of service to LEM and the City of Leominster as a Councilmen. His legacy will be carried on through the use of the canteen. To date, all upgrades to the canteen have come at no cost to the City of Leominster.

Canteen services are funded by generous donations and annual fund raising. To donate to LEM’s canteen services, or to request canteen services, contact Leominster Emergency Management at  [email protected] Office: 978-534-7580 Non-Emergency Calls: 978-534-7541
To locate and request any of the CRHSAC assets please visit our interactive Equipment Resource Map

For more information or to request funding from the CRHSAC please contact Ali Novak [email protected] or Pete Peloquin [email protected]
Westborough Receives Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant
On September 14th, 2020, the Baker-Polito Administration announced $806,880 in grants to fund culvert replacements projects that improve municipal roads and river health across the Commonwealth. Provided by the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance (CRMA) Grant Program supports projects that replace undersized and deteriorating culverts with crossings that strengthen community preparedness for large storms, protect fisheries, wildlife and river habitats, as well as promote smart investments in climate resilient infrastructure. Most importantly, the grant program helps communities find solutions to deal with the cost of aging road infrastructure.

In total, there were 12 projects that were awarded grants through the Fiscal Year 2021 Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program. The Town of Westborough received $41,750 in grants to conduct field data collection and analysis for the replacement of a culvert on Jackstraw Brook. Being that the Jackstraw Brook is one of the major streams that drains to the Cedar Swamp Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), the upgrade of this culvert will benefit the community by, reducing flood risk, improving climate resiliency, reconnecting fish and wildlife passage in a cold-water fishery

The CMRPC transportation planning staff would like to congratulate the Town of Westborough on their success in receiving these funds. This is an accomplishment towards an effort to improve aging road infrastructure within the Central Massachusetts Region. To learn more about this grant program and other communities who were awarded funds, please visit this link.
CMMPO Southeast and Southwest Subregion Representative Selection
On the evenings of September 23rd and 24th, the CMRPC transportation planning staff hosted the CMMPO information and member selection meetings for the Southeast and Southwest subregions. This Southeast subregion comprises the communities of Grafton, Millbury, Sutton, Douglas, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Hopedale, Upton, Blackstone, Mendon, and Millville. Sutton Selectmember Jesse Limanek represents the Southeast subregion and Northbridge Selectmember Tom Melia serves as an alternate, their term was set to expire on September 30, 2020. With that, the selectmembers who attended the meeting voted Sutton Selectman Jesse Limanek to remain as the Southeast subregion Representative, and Grafton Selectmember Doreen DeFazio replaced Northbridge Selectmember Tom Melia as the Southeast subregion alternate. These terms are set for the next three years.

Similar to the Southeast subregion, the terms for the representative and alternate of the Southwest subregion were also set to expire on September 30, 2020. This subregion comprises the communities of Auburn, Oxford, Webster, Dudley, Charlton, Southbridge, and Sturbridge. Currently Oxford Selectmember Dennis Lamarche represents the Southwest subregion, and Sturbridge Selectmember Michael Suprenant serves as the Alternate. The selectmembers who attended the meeting unanimously voted to have Dennis Lamarche and Michael Suprenant continue in their respective positions . These are three year terms.

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 [email protected] or 508.756.7717.