Holyoke’s acting mayor doles out $15M in federal rescue funds

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2021 8:05:17 PM

HOLYOKE — Acting Mayor Terence Murphy has announced the recipients of $14.9 million in coronavirus relief funding in Holyoke, marking significant investments in water infrastructure, municipal building improvements and housing.

In an announcement Wednesday, Murphy outlined which organizations will receive the first round of American Rescue Plan Act funding dolled out to municipalities. The city received $29 million total in ARPA funds, half of which is being distributed next year. In addition, Murphy has already opened up applications for an additional $3.8 million in county ARPA funds Holyoke recently received.

Among the biggest recipients of money are:

■$4 million in municipal building improvements, including at two fire stations and the city’s library.

■$2.675 million to the Department of Public Works for sewer system improvements and $2 million to Holyoke Water Works to replace the water line that runs to Holyoke Medical Center.

■New housing and home improvement projects, including $1.3 million for owner-occupied homes being built in the second phase of the Holyoke Housing Authority’s South Holyoke Homes project and $805,000 to OneHolyoke CDC for new housing, rental unit improvements and neighborhood rehab work. Another $195,607 will go to the Valley Opportunity Council for rent and mortgage assistance.

■$1.7 million to the city auditor’s office to replace revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

■$800,000 in small business and hospitality industry grants to be managed by the Office for Community Development

■$338,519 to buy turnout gear for city firefighters

At a press conference streamed by Holyoke Media, Murphy said immediate safety concerns and neighborhood revitalization were priorities in his decision-making.

“We take care of physical structures that have health issues, we take care of revitalizing some neighborhoods, we take care of trying to stabilize the fight against illegal activity in some of those neighborhoods,” Murphy said. “This $14.9 million, I think, is going to make a significant difference.”

Interviewed Thursday, Murphy said it was difficult to decide which of the $87.5 million in proposals to select for funding. Those decisions fell to Murphy after the City Council named him acting mayor five months ago, succeeding Alex Morse, who stepped away from the job in March to become town manager in Provincetown.

“I’m honored that they trusted me to do this,” he said. “My hope is they’re going to have a long-term positive impact on making a united community, making everybody recognize that we’re in this together.”

Murphy said those who didn’t receive funding are encouraged to apply again for some of the $3.8 million in funds he expects to appropriate later next month. Another two rounds of funding, again $14.9 million and $3.8 million, will be available next year.

For those who did receive funding during this round, the money will provide a vital boost to their projects, many of which are ready to move forward. Murphy noted that some projects will help low- and middle-income families in the city, such as affordable housing construction. Other projects will save the city money in the long term, he said, like $675,000 going toward sewer separation work at Springdale Pond.

Fire Chief Jeffrey Przekopowski said Thursday that the money dedicated to fixing the city’s two oldest fire stations will extend the life of those buildings by more than a decade, saving the city money in the process. He also said that work, which includes replacing leaking windows, will make for a healthier work environment for department employees.

Przekopowski said he is also “ecstatic” about funding that will let the fire department buy 120 sets of firefighter gear — a second set for every firefighter in the city. That will allow them to launder their first set of gear after going to a fire, washing off dangerous carcinogens while still having another set of gear to wear to another fire.

“It’s really going to be a game-changer for us,” he said.

In a statement Thursday, Holyoke Housing Authority Executive Director Matthew Mainville said his organization was “grateful and excited” for the $1.3 million it was awarded. The money will go toward the second phase of the South Holyoke Homes project, helping to build eight new homes around Carlos Vega Park that will be sold to income-eligible first-time homebuyers.

Construction work on a 12-unit rental building on the corner of Hamilton and South East streets — the first phase of that project — is already underway. In total, the project will eventually feature 66 affordable rental units and 19 rowhouse-style, owner-occupied properties built by the Holyoke Housing Authority on vacant lots surrounding the park.

“The opportunity to build homeownership will provide additional tax revenue for the city and provide an opportunity for the homeowners to create intergenerational wealth,” Mainville said. “With Phase 1 of the South Holyoke Homes under construction, we are excited that Phase 2 will be following along to realize the vision for transformative change in South Holyoke.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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