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UMass chancellor suggests consultant to improve economic development, neighborhoods in Amherst

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor at the University of Massachusetts, has proposed hiring a consultant with the town of Amherst to find ways to strengthen the local economy and improve neighborhoods near the campus.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor at the University of Massachusetts, has proposed hiring a consultant with the town of Amherst to find ways to strengthen the local economy and improve neighborhoods near the campus. Purchase photo reprints »

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy announced Monday the idea of jointly hiring the consultant, at a cost of $60,000, with the town of Amherst. Amherst would fund its share through an appropriation at Town Meeting, during which Subbaswamy would advocate for the plan.

The consultant would bring in outside expertise based on experience in other college communities, including how a university grows, what new housing options are available and ways to ensure neighborhood civility.

Subbaswamy said in a statement that UMass is an engaged and committed member of Amherst, as it has been for 150 years.

“With success, new challenges inevitably arise,” Subbaswamy said. “This proposal will help us engage in creative discussions about how to strengthen our partnership and address issues that concern all (of) us.”

Town Manager John Musante said he supports the town-gown study as a means of promoting economic development, providing more housing, improving public safety and dealing with off-campus student behavior.

The consultant, who would work with town and UMass staff, should help chart a more coherent and well-understood course for both Amherst and the university, Musante said.

“Both the chancellor and I are committed to working together to synthesize the good work done in both the town’s master plan and the campus master plan,” Musante said.

Town Meeting, which begins May 6, will be asked to appropriate $30,000 in cash reserves to pay for Amherst’s portion of the study.

“The request is the result of ongoing dialogue I’ve been having with the UMass chancellor and his team,” Musante said.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said Amherst committing money means the town will be invested in the outcome of the study.

Select Board member Alisa Brewer expressed concerns with undertaking another study and questioned whether municipal staff would have time, though said she would support the expenditure

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