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Holyoke council accepts $116K grant for COVID-19 equipment for first responders

  • Holyoke City Hall. Photographed on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2020 2:19:02 PM
Modified: 5/22/2020 2:18:50 PM

HOLYOKE — The City Council on Monday accepted a $116,103 federal grant that will allow the city’s police department to purchase supplies that will protect first responders against the COVID-19 virus, as well as other items.

The council accepted the federal Department of Justice grant during a special meeting held over videoconference. Councilors also received and tabled discussion on Mayor Alex Morse’s FY 2021 budget and rekindled debate over a $275,000 clean energy grant that the elected body rejected earlier this month.

Holyoke Police Sgt. John Hart said at the meeting that the police department was looking to purchase a “laundry list” of items that will be shared with the Holyoke Fire Department. The grant does not require a financial match, he said, and will help the department from doing any deficit spending for this fiscal year.

In addition to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, cloth masks and face shields, Hart said law enforcement will use the grant money to purchase a 20 x 40-foot personnel decontamination tent, 10 $500 portable UV light room sanitizers, two emergency messaging trailers, a pickup truck, an electric police motorcycle, a mobile police camera and decontamination foggers, among other equipment.

Hart said the portable UV light sanitizers can sanitize a 15 x 15-foot room in 10 minutes, and that these will be split with the fire department. The sanitizers will be “useful in our cells, in our booking areas and offices and they can be mobile and utilized throughout various areas,” according to Hart.

The foggers will be used by the police and fire department to help decontaminate vehicles quickly, he said. The new pickup truck will replace a 15-year-old vehicle currently used by the department, “and this will take some of the burden off of the city from purchasing another police vehicle,” Hart said. The motorcycle can be used on-road and off-road.

Trailers will be used to notify the public about emergency messages and can be placed at entrance and egress areas in the city, he said. The money also will be used to buy temperature guns and “mobile access subscriptions” that Hart said will help command staff in the event they need to work from home.

There is a possibility that the police department may amend their grant if the fire and police chiefs decide to purchase multiple 10 x 10-foot decontamination tents, Hart said.

“It depends on their vision and mission for implementing what types of decontamination tents they want,” Hart told the council.

At the beginning of the meeting, Ward 5 Councilor Linda Vacon argued that the special meeting violated the state’s Open Meeting Law, saying there was “inadequate public access noticed to the general public.” A motion to adjourn early in the meeting failed to pass. 

Councilors also spent the better part of an hour arguing parliamentary procedure surrounding the $275,000 Barr Foundation grant, funds which would pay for project management and technical consulting for developing a plan to transition the city’s buildings and energy grid to renewable energy. Councilors rejected the grant earlier this month.

Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley, who previously voted against the grant, argued the item was on the council’s agenda because At-large Councilor Joe McGiverin was looking to accept the grant with a simple majority. Bartley asked the council for a final vote on the grant, but the elected body ultimately decided to table it. 

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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