Month: September 2018

Sen. Lesser Lauds Development Grants to Boost Springfield Small Businesses

SPRINGFIELD — Sen. Eric P. Lesser welcomed the announcement last week that Springfield businesses would benefit from $75,000 in grants for state and local partnerships.

The City of Springfield received $10,000 in matching grants to extend its Lease It Local program, launched as an effort to fill vacant storefronts. The program provides a rental subsidy for early-stage businesses that occupy vacant ground-floor storefronts for three or more months. The City will match grant funds with an additional $10,000.

The City will also be able to expand an existing architectural lighting program, launched by the local Business Improvement District, and an existing wayfinding program, supported by the City, thanks to $28,500 in state grants.

“This is great news for Springfield as the City continues its historic revival from downtown outward. These grants will give another boost to our downtown businesses, bringing more foot traffic into their stores and to our region’s signature attractions,” Sen. Lesser said.

The wayfinding program adds signage and lighting to draw visitors to downtown attractions and provide additional visibility and security for pedestrians.

The funding is being released to the City as part of MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, a program for Gateway Cities such as Springfield and Chicopee, designed to accelerate economic growth within focused districts.

The program works to build partnerships partnerships that engage community members in planning and implementing local economic development initiatives to spur further public and private investment.

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Sen. Lesser Urges Trade Representative to Exempt CRRC from Trump Tariffs

“We are gaining, not losing, in our partnership with CRRC,” Sen. Lesser writes in letter

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer Wednesday urging that he exempt the railcar manufacturer China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), which employs 120 at its Springfield plant, from punishing tariffs levied by the Trump administration.

In July, tariffs announced by the Trump administration on $16 billion of Chinese imports went into effect. Those tariffs on various parts and supplies used by CRRC could add 25 percent to its manufacturing costs.

CRRC is filing an application requesting the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative exempt the company from the tariffs.

“These tariffs are an unfair penalty on a company that is creating jobs in my Senate district, and I hope your office will take the necessary actions to exempt CRRC from these punishing tariffs,” Sen. Lesser’s letter reads, in part.

Sen. Lesser notes in his letter that CRRC employs 120 workers, with plans to hire 20 more by the end of the year, and that each worker earns an average salary of $65,000.

“These are good, high-paying manufacturing jobs,” Sen. Lesser writes.

The tariffs have been defended as a way to address the U.S. trade deficit with China. But CRRC, a Chinese-owned company, won the contract to build U.S. trains partly because there are no U.S. companies that manufacture railcars. CRRC also outbid its competitors for the contract to build railcars for Boston’s T, offering the state the most competitive price for the job.

“I understand that the administration is hoping to make American workers more competitive, but there is no U.S. company competing here because not a single U.S. company is making trains. It’s an entirely foreign market. These tariffs are an extra cost passed directly onto the taxpayer, who’s funding the construction of these railcars for the MBTA,” said Sen. Lesser.

“In other words, these tariffs are essentially a tax on commuters who live in some of our country’s largest metropolitan areas and use these transit systems in their daily lives,” he wrote in his letter, referencing the different subway systems CRRC has contracts to supply.

In addition to the MBTA, CRRC also has contracts to build subway cars for Chicago’s “L” system, Los Angeles’ Metro and Philadelphia’s SEPTA.

Read Sen. Lesser’s full letter here.

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Sen. Lesser Attends Dedication of Granby’s New East Meadow School

GRANBY — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined a host of local officials, including Granby Superintendent of Schools Sheryl Stanton, School Committee Chair Emre Evern and School Building Chair Mark Bail, to dedicate the town’s new East Meadow School on Monday.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg and state Reps. John Scibak and Solomon Goldstein-Rose also attended.

“This is a big day for Granby and for our students, who will now be able to learn in a brand new elementary school,” said Sen. Lesser. “This has been a long project, and a long priority of the town, and I’m glad the day has finally come to dedicate the new East Meadow School.”

Photo below:

Sen. Lesser and local officials cut opening ribbon at Granby’s East Meadow School.

Sen. Lesser, Rep. Puppolo Announce 2019 Funding for Minnechaug Turf Resurfacing

WILBRAHAM — Senator Eric P. Lesser, Representative Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr., and local town and school officials visited Minnechaug Regional High School Thursday to announce $50,000 in funds secured in the state’s 2019 budget to resurface Minnechaug’s athletic field.

“This project was identified by the town as one of its priorities, and I’m glad we could work together to secure the necessary funds to make it happen. This state funding will supplement the ongoing efforts by the School Department and Town as they work to ensure that both the school community and broader community have access to a well-maintained playing surface,” said Sen. Lesser.

“This is another great investment by the Commonwealth, not only for the Town of Wilbraham, but especially for youth sports and continued improvements to Minnechaug Regional High School. I was pleased to support this funding,” said Rep. Puppolo.

The resurfaced turf field will replace the existing field. The state funding will be in addition to an appropriation made by the Town of Wilbraham at its annual Town Meeting earlier this year.

Photo below:

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Puppolo join local officials to announce 2019 funding for the resurfacing of Minnechaug Regional High School’s athletic field.

Sen. Lesser Visits Ludlow Boys and Girls Club, Announces 2019 Funding for Area Clubs

LUDLOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser visited the Ludlow Boys and Girls Club Thursday after announcing $50,000 in state funds he helped secure for the region’s Boys and Girls Clubs at the Chicopee Club.

“Our Boys and Girls Clubs do such tremendous work in our communities to prepare our young people to live lives of purpose,” said Sen. Lesser. “I am proud to be a partner to this organization.”

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A Statement from Senator Eric P. Lesser Regarding the Columbia Gas Explosions in the Merrimack Valley:

SPRINGFIELD — Today, following the tragic events in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover on Thursday evening, Senator Eric P. Lesser released the following statement:

“I express my condolences to the families of the Merrimack Valley who have lost their homes and all of those hurt by this tragedy. I’d also like to thank the first responders on the ground for their quick response and life-saving work.

“In light of yesterday’s tragic events in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, I am calling on the Department of Public Utilities to conduct a statewide investigation of Columbia Gas operations, including an immediate plan for fixing the hundreds of gas leaks already known and identified across our Commonwealth. Until that investigation and plan is complete, there must be a halt to new permitting and construction, including the proposed Longmeadow metering station.

“Unfortunately, our region has seen the devastating impact of gas leaks. Springfield experienced an explosion as recently as 2012 that caused widespread damage.

“It shouldn’t take a tragedy to force action. Enough is enough. Columbia Gas has a moral obligation to protect the public and to fix their infrastructure.”

Sen. Lesser represents Springfield, Chicopee, Ludlow, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Wilbraham, and Granby which accounts for 50 percent of Columbia Gas’ service area in Western Massachusetts.

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Sen. Lesser Cuts Ribbon at New Christopher Heights Housing Complex in Belchertown

BELCHERTOWN — Sen. Eric P. Lesser joined local officials, including Reps. Susannah Whipps and Tom Petrolati and Board of Selectmen members Brenda Aldrich, Ed Boscher and Gail Gramarossa, to cut the ribbon officially opening the Christopher Heights Assisted Living Facility in Belchertown on Wednesday.

“This is yet another major development happening in Belchertown. This one is particularly exciting because it is the first new property opened on the old State School site, the first major step toward redeveloping and reusing this land that has been vacant for far too long,” said Sen. Lesser.

The project was supported in part by a MassWorks infrastructure grant. Representatives from MassDevelopment and MassHousing were also present to celebrate the opening.

Photo below:

Sen. Lesser speaks at the opening of Christopher Heights in Belchertown.

Sen. Lesser, Rep. Whipps Visit Site of Future Splash Park in Belchertown

BELCHERTOWN — Sen. Eric P. Lesser and Rep. Susannah Whipps visited the site of the future Belchertown splash park on Wednesday after securing state budget funds to build the park.

The new splash park will be built in place of several tennis courts located near Chestnut Hill School which have fallen into disrepair. The park will redevelop land that is currently underutilized and unsafe for small children

“There’s a lot of new developments in Belchertown, and this park will be yet another exciting recreational opportunity for families to enjoy. Through a lot of hard work and coordination with Town officials, we were able to secure this critical funding that will add to the quality of life for our residents,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I was proud to advocate for this project with Senator Lesser and Representative Petrolati.  This beautiful recreational area fits perfectly within Belchertown’s plan for more community space to be enjoyed by families for years to come,” said Rep. Whipps.

The legislature overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of the budget amendment that allocated funding to build the splash park. The Governor signed the final budget in August.

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Whipps speak about what this new splash park will mean for the community in Belchertown.
Sen. Lesser views renderings of the new splash park that will be built in Belchertown using funds secured in the state budget.

Sen. Lesser, Western Mass. Legislators Send Letter Requesting Faster Handicap Placard Service for Western Mass. Residents

Western Mass. residents can wait over a month for handicap parking permits, even after being assured the wait time would be reduced

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser, along with 13 fellow legislators representing each of the four Western Massachusetts counties, sent a letter on Monday to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack urging a reduction in wait times for Western Mass. residents applying for temporary handicap placards.

The request comes after a July 19 report by NEPR revealed that Western Mass. residents recovering from injuries can be forced to wait for about a month to receive a temporary handicap placard, with some waiting six weeks or more.

Western Mass. legislators previously addressed the problem with Secretary Pollack in 2016. They received a letter in response from Erin Deveney, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, which claimed that there is an expedited process for temporary placards that had not been followed in Western Mass. RMV offices. Deveney wrote that the RMV would “educate staff further on the best ways the RMV can serve temporary disability parking applicants.”

But the report by NEPR shows that the problem persists.

“It is disturbing to us that we were assured this problem would be fixed only to discover, two years later, that it has not been,” the legislators’ letter reads in part.

“Moreover, this is clearly a pattern in which residents of Western Massachusetts continue to be treated as second-class citizens with unequal access to the state resources enjoyed by residents of Eastern Massachusetts,” the letter also says.

“We were assured two years ago that this problem was fixed, and that wait times for handicap placards would be the same for residents of Western Mass and those living in the Greater Boston area. But that is not the case,” Sen. Lesser said. “Instead, we have a situation where Western Mass continues to be treated unfairly and continues to receive second-rate service despite paying the same taxes.”

In the letter, the legislators urge Secretary Pollack and Deveney to implement the expedited process they claimed was in place for applicants seeking temporary handicap placards. Failing this, the legislators asked Secretary Pollack for her recommendations on potential legislative fixes to the situation, such as a bill that the House and Senate could pass, if necessary.

Finally, the letter requests a concrete plan from the transportation secretary to fix the problem, and explain why it persists two years after the legislators had been assured it would be solved.

The full list of legislators requesting action is below:

  • Senator Eric P. Lesser
  • Senator James T. Welch
  • Senator Anne M. Gobi
  • Senator Adam G. Hinds
  • Senator Donald F. Humason, Jr.
  • Representative Jose F. Tosado
  • Representative Bud L. Williams
  • Representative John W. Scibak
  • Representative Paul W. Mark
  • Representative Brian M. Ashe
  • Representative Smitty Pignatelli
  • Representative Stephen Kulik
  • Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose
  • Representative Carlos González

Read the full letter here.

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