Month: October 2018

Legislature Passes Supplemental Budget, Including Funding for the Merrimack Valley and School Safety Measures

BOSTON — The House and Senate enacted a supplemental budget Monday, filling gaps in the state budget through the end of the year on a number of measures, including school safety funds and emergency funds for relief in the Merrimack Valley.

The funding bill, H.4930, is awaiting Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature and includes the following allocations:

  • $40 million for local roads and bridges to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund
  • $19.4 million for the Department of Early Education and Care for TANF and child care access
  • $7.5 million for access to mental and behavioral health in public schools
  • $2.5 million to implement early voting for November 6, 2018

The bill also includes $7.5 million for a grant program for school safety infrastructure improvements, including retrofitting and upgrading school buildings with security enhancements such as classroom door locks, security cameras or active shooter detection systems. The legislation also prioritizes those schools most in need of safety improvements and most in need of financial assistance for implementing them.

“Given recent tragedies, it has become vital to provide security upgrades to our schools and ensure that they are safe places for our children to learn,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser. “I join many parents in their frustration that more has not been done on the national level to address rising rates of gun violence, particularly in our schools and other public places. Here in Massachusetts, we are working to protect our children and have already banned devices like bump stocks that were used in last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.”

The supplemental budget bill also includes $10 million to aid Merrimack Valley communities affected by the recent string of gas explosions that leveled more than 60 homes in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover. The funds will cover the “costs of Commonwealth personnel and overtime expenses, immediate living and medical costs, and costs incurred by” the three municipalities, according to the bill.

Following the explosions on Sept. 13, Sen. Lesser called on the Department of Public Utilities to conduct an investigation of all gas lines operated by Columbia Gas in the state. An investigation is currently underway.

“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 said at the time.

“There are hundreds of gas leaks we already know about across the state, including here in the Pioneer Valley. The DPU needs to take this threat seriously, and there must be a halt to new permitting and construction, including the proposed Longmeadow metering station,” Sen. Lesser added today.

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Sen. Lesser Joins Springfield Officials in Breaking Ground on New East Forest Park Library

SPRINGFIELD — Sen. Eric P. Lesser joined Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and other local and library officials in the formal groundbreaking of the East Forest Park Branch Library on Monday. Earlier this year, he secured $75,000 in funding for the library in the state’s FY2019 budget.

“The residents of East Forest Park have been without a full-service library for the better part of the last 50 years, and I’m excited to see this neighborhood have a permanent library of its own. This is a significant investment for Springfield, and will contribute to this neighborhood’s revitalization after the 2011 tornado, alongside the new Pope Francis High School,” said Sen. Lesser.

Sen. Lesser is also Chair of the legislative Libraries Caucus, which successfully advocated for increased funding to the state Board of Library Commissioners in next year’s budget, including $9.6 million in state aid to public libraries and $2.8 million in library technology and resource sharing funding.

The cost of the East Forest Park Branch Library’s construction will be offset by $4.9 million in a grant from the Board of Library Commissioners, announced in July 2017. Springfield was one of nine communities to receive a grant award, with 34 others on the waitlist.

The new East Forest Park Branch Library will be located on Surrey Road in Springfield, adjacent to Mary Dryden School and Pope Francis High School, and is expected to open in 2019.

The library’s new location will be a permanent home for the library, which is currently located in a shopping plaza on Island Pond Road. Limited by its size, the library — which is the second busiest in the City of Springfield — has only eight computers and no dedicated space for teens.

The new permanent library will have special areas for children and teens, a community room, study rooms and dozens of public computers.

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Sen. Lesser Welcomes Additional Clean Energy Grant to Wilbraham

WILBRAHAM — Sen. Eric P. Lesser welcomed the announcement that the town of Wilbraham has been awarded another $12,500 in Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grants.

“This is more good news, and another great step forward for our community, which will help reduce energy costs by continuing Wilbraham’s ongoing energy efficiency projects. Town leaders took the initiative to maintain their green energy goals by applying for this grant money. As we know, clean energy is not just good for the environment, but also for taxpayers’ wallets. This is a win-win for Wilbraham,” said Sen. Lesser.

The Department of Energy Resources awarded a number of grants to designated “Green Communities” to help them develop clean energy projects. Open to all 351 cities and towns, as well as municipal light plants, META grants fund the services of expert consultants and contractors to assist with a diverse array of local energy projects.

“This funding is exemplary of the successful partnership between municipalities and state government to achieve our shared clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Working closely together on addressing our energy challenges brings us one step closer to creating a clean, affordable and resilient energy future for the Commonwealth.

“The Department of Energy Resource’s Green Communities program is an innovative partnership that connects state and local resources to increase the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judson. “META grants consistently provide the catalyst for local energy projects to move from concept to reality.”

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Sen. Lesser Welcomes Additional Clean Energy Grant to Granby

GRANBY — Sen. Eric P. Lesser welcomed the announcement that the town of Granby has been awarded another $12,500 in Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grants.

“This is more good news, and another great step forward for our community, which will help reduce energy costs by continuing Granby’s ongoing waste management and energy efficiency projects. Granby leaders took the initiative to maintain their green energy goals by applying for this grant money, showing that Granby really is a regional leader in this area,” said Sen. Lesser.

The Department of Energy Resources awarded a number of grants to designated “Green Communities” to help them develop clean energy projects. Open to all 351 cities and towns, as well as municipal light plants, META grants fund the services of expert consultants and contractors to assist with a diverse array of local energy projects.

“This funding is exemplary of the successful partnership between municipalities and state government to achieve our shared clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Working closely together on addressing our energy challenges brings us one step closer to creating a clean, affordable and resilient energy future for the Commonwealth.”

“The Department of Energy Resource’s Green Communities program is an innovative partnership that connects state and local resources to increase the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judson. “META grants consistently provide the catalyst for local energy projects to move from concept to reality.”

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Sen. Lesser, Local Officials Announce 2019 Funding for the Zoo at Forest Park

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined other local elected officials and members of the Zoo in Forest Park’s board of directors today to announce the funds secured in the FY2019 state budget for the Zoo and its educational programming.

“Like many people across our region, I grew up visiting the Zoo at Forest Park. Today, I bring my daughters to experience it for themselves,” said Senator Lesser. “This funding will enable the Zoo to continue to provide its well-known educational programming like Zoo on the Go, care for the animals year round, and offer area youth internship opportunities. This is an important resource for our community and I am  proud to support it.”

“The Zoo in Forest Park provides our inner city and our low income communities with a unique experience to see, learn and appreciate the animals. It is incumbent that we work together to provide the funds to support the ongoing operations to keep the Zoo here in Springfield,” said Rep. Carlos Gonzalez.

State Reps. Bud Williams and Jose Tosado also attended.

“We are incredibly grateful to Sen. Lesser, Rep. Gonzalez and all members of the western Massachusetts legislative delegation for making this funding a reality,” said Sarah Tsitso, executive director of The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center. “Our 124-year-old Zoo truly is a regional treasure, providing education and enrichment to generations of local families. The funding included in the 2019 state budget will support all 150 native and exotic animals that call our Zoo their home, enhance conservation and rehabilitation efforts, spur economic development through internships and job training, and provide educational programming for children and adults. This wonderful partnership with the state will impact more than 50,000 people in 2019, and provide opportunities for growth for The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center.”

Zoo officials noted that the Zoo is an important economic driver for the region, especially as more visitors come to Springfield for attractions like MGM Springfield and the Dr. Seuss Museum.

The state funding will support the Zoo’s programming, including hands-on educational internships for veterinary students from local colleges, including UMass-Amherst, University of Connecticut, Westfield State University, Bay Path University, Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College.

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