A series of education, family medicine, food access and infrastructure projects in Franklin and Hampshire counties are among the local beneficiaries included in a $3.76 billion spending package enacted by Governor Charlie Baker earlier this month.
“I am delighted that the Senate has included these regional education, food security and health care priorities in our final spending plan,” said Sen. Jo Comerford, who helped secure $20 million. for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in addition to the $1 million in targeted spending in the two counties. “I am grateful to the constituents who have raised these needs and opportunities with our office and grateful to my team for helping me bring this money back to our people.”
The money, included as part of an amendment to an economic development bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month, includes $200,000 for the Massachusetts Food Trust program administered by the Franklin County Community Development Corporation , based in Greenfield; $200,000 for the repair of the elementary school infrastructure in Shutesbury; $175,000 to support a diverse teacher workforce initiative from the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services and to support the nonprofit’s work in Northampton public schools; $275,000 for fire damage repairs at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton; and $100,000 for the family medicine residency program at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.
Dr. Robert Baldor, founding chairman and professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said the $100,000 will help fund the hospital’s current investment of about $5 million. hospital in creating a state-of-the-art clinical/teaching facility. at 48 Sanderson St., work on which has begun and is continuing.
“It’s a very nice recognition of the state of need in this area,” he said. “It really is a long-term investment in Franklin County.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, the cost of the project has gone from $4.2 million to between $5 and $5.5 million, according to Baldor. So far, the community has helped raise over $600,000 to support her.
The first phase of the project is complete – the construction of the teaching space and the conference rooms.
“We are renovating the entire building, not just the educational space,” Baldor explained. “It’s a two-story building. The services there will all be moved downstairs and family medicine will take over the entire floor. »
Baldor said with the first cohort of family medicine residents on board and the second cohort slated to begin in July 2023, next year will require patience as construction unfolds while physicians continue to see their patients. .
“I recognize that there is so much need out there, and I recognize the importance of what this means to Franklin County…and helping us move things forward,” Baldor began. “It’s wonderful that the (Comerford) office was able to pull through.”
In Northampton, the Collaborative for Educational Services will receive $175,000, of which approximately $150,000 will support the work of the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition. The remaining $25,000 will benefit the collaborative’s work at Northampton Public Schools, according to Director of Development Isolda Ortega-Bustamante.
“This $150,000 allocation will support direct services to overriding Black and Latino paraeducators and teachers on their journey to obtaining state licensing, help maintain current programming, support infrastructure construction, and expand our work to achieve ever-increasing impact in our region,” Ortega-Bustamante said in a statement. “The (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and most public school districts recognize the expanding workforce teaching work and increasing teacher diversity as key issues, and (the Collaborative for Educational Services) is very fortunate to benefit from working with such great partners in our region to address these issues together, now with the incredible support of Senator Comerford and her colleagues with this grant.
In Greenfield, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation will receive $200,000 to support the Massachusetts Food Trust program, which provides loans, grants and business assistance to help get healthy, affordable food to low-income and underserved areas. served.
“We are very excited and grateful,” commented Rebecca Busansky, Senior Program Manager. “Seeing the impact over the past four years since the program started, it’s really become important to sustain and now grow the program.”
She said that $200,000 will supplement the one million dollars the program receives each year from the state.
“We support many small independent supermarkets, mobile markets, farm shops, farmers’ markets and farm stands with the kind of healthy food funding that we’ve seen make a difference in other states,” Busansky explained. “It was really exciting…and we’re excited about the work ahead.”
Journalist Mary Byrne can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.
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