Amherst, UMass strike new partnership deal

By Scott Merzbach

Staff Report

Published: 06-28-2023 4:59 PM

AMHERST — The town will get approximately $5.5 million, including $700,000 annually for emergency medical and fire service, under the terms of a new five-year strategic partnership deal announced Wednesday.

The deal, which is retroactive to July 1, 2022, nearly doubles the university’s previous investment in the town, according to UMass. It bumps the university’s support to $200,000 a year for the impact of the town educating children associated with UMass families who live in tax-exempt housing, an increase from the current figure of $185,000.

“For the past decade, I have had the pleasure of calling Amherst home. I am happy that, as I prepare to depart, we are able to finalize this strategic partnership agreement,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement. The chancellor is leaving is post on Friday.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman praised Subbaswamy’s commitment to negotiating the agreement.

“After many months of frank and fruitful discussions, I am very pleased that we have a new agreement,” Bockelman stated. “The town and the university meet regularly and work well together.

The new partnership deal marks the sixth time the town and university have entered into an accord, dating back to 1995. The new pact extends through June 30, 2027.

The agreement includes the purchase of a new ambulance, and $100,000 a year, beginning in fiscal 2024, to town services to promote safe and healthy neighborhoods.

UMass will provide up to $65,000 for a pedestrian safety study along the town-owned North Pleasant Street corridor extending from Triangle Street through the campus to Pine Street in North Amherst.

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The university will also continue to pay the town for licenses, fees and services, including water and sewer service, which last year totaled more than $3.4 million.

UMass and the town will each contribute $50,000 to fund unspecified economic development projects.

Other parts of the agreement include the town continuing to receive hotel taxes from the UMass Hotel from non-university related stays, which is generally more than $100,000 per year; biannual meetings between the chancellor, town manager, council president and vice president; and regular meetings on planning and public works and other topics.

Bockelman said it’s been a long way to reaching agreement on the first partnership since December 2015, when Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek, then interim town manager, and Subbaswamy made the deal. Though that expired June 30, 2019, terms of the agreement have remained in effect, and aspects have been tweaked, such as increasing the education-related payments from $120,000 a year to $185,000 per year in February 2020.

“This agreement is an important step in recognizing our shared needs and concerns and sets an exciting new standard for our relationship going forward,” Bockelman said.