Area municipalities receive share of $10M in flood relief money

Crews start to rebuild Lower Road in Deerfield on Aug. 4. The road was cut in half by a small stream during a deluge that swept away a car.

Crews start to rebuild Lower Road in Deerfield on Aug. 4. The road was cut in half by a small stream during a deluge that swept away a car. FILE PHOTO/PAUL Franz

Staff Report

Published: 01-22-2024 5:22 PM

Modified: 01-22-2024 7:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — State grants totaling $10 million for communities hit by last year’s flooding have been announced by the Healey-Driscoll administration.

The neighboring Franklin County towns of Deerfield and Conway topped the money list, with awards of $1.58 million and $1.245 million, respectively.

Northampton will receive $365,000, while Goshen, Plainfield, Williamsburg, Leverett and Shutesbury have been awarded $20,000 each.

“It’s a rare ray of sunshine from the state in our direction … It’s so meaningful, we’re not going to have to increase the tax burden on residents,” Conway Select Board Chair Philip Kantor told the Greenfield Recorder.

Conway officials estimate the town suffered approximately $3 million in flood damages, while Deerfield has already completed more than $2.1 million in repairs and is expecting its totals to be closer to $3 million.

Deerfield voters last week gave the town the authority to borrow up to $5 million to pay for road repairs. That amount will likely no longer be needed.

“We are putting a warrant article (at annual Town Meeting) for the rescinding of the borrowing, but we’re going to leave the exact number blank until we make it through the winter,” Select Board Chair Carolyn Shores Ness said.

Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said the city sincerely appreciated the administration’s “decisive action” on flood relief, along with local legislators’ dedicated efforts to draw attention to the issue.

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“The allocated funds will significantly aid in our recovery efforts from the severe weather events of last year,” Sciarra said in a statement.

Flood impacts in Northampton included damage to roads, fields and facilities at Maines Field and Riverside Drive and damaged culverts and headwalls at several sites.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual business meeting Saturday, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said the grant awards were the first installment of $15 million included in a supplemental budget finally approved in December. The funds are for municipalities that experienced damage or incurred emergency response costs from extreme weather over the past year.

The administration first round is being distributed to 37 communities. The remaining $5 million will be released in the spring to support municipalities impacted by September storms, according to the administration.

Driscoll also announced that the administration is increasing funding for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program by 35%. The additional $7 million will specifically help communities plan, design and construct nature-based solutions to inland flooding.

Healey noted that she and Driscoll visited storm-damaged communities over the past year and knew they needed more support to rebuild.

“We’re proud to be delivering the first round of these funds to 37 cities and towns to relieve some of the burden they’ve been facing, and we’re also going to increase support for municipalities in their efforts to reduce the risk of flooding in their communities through the MVP Program,” the governor stated.

Unlike many states, Massachusetts has no standing fund for disaster relief. Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, have urged the creation of such a fund, rather than dealing with disasters through one-time appropriations.