Editor’s note: Town Manager Paul Bockelman submits a comprehensive report to the Town Council, usually at the first Town Council meeting of each month. The reports, usually 9 to 15 pages in length, provide up-to-date information on what is happening within and across town departments. The Manager’s Report is usually one of the last items on the agenda and is often taken up late at night, leaving little time for Bockelman to do more than mention a few highlights and this is usually all that gets entered into the Council minutes. What follows is a complete, unedited version of the Town Manager’s Report. All Town Manager Reports are available here on the Town’s website
- Cuppa Joe with Paul: We will restart the monthly open meeting with the Town Manager after Labor Day.
- Eversource Helicopter Work: Eversource will be performing an aerial patrol of the Western Massachusetts transmission lines in the coming days. This is a routine inspection of transmission infrastructure to ensure the reliability of the system and assess the clearance from vegetation. Flights will continue through August 18th. This schedule is weather dependent with planned rain dates of August 21st and 22nd.
- Dams: There has been much discussion about dams in the news lately. Here is some basic information about the five Town-owned dams. One is in the Town of Amherst. All of this information and much more is available on the Town’s website.
o Water Supply Dams: The Department of Public Works maintains four reservoir dams as part of our drinking water system infrastructure. They include the Atkins Reservoir Dam in Shutesbury, and the Hill, Hawley, and Intake Reservoir Dams in Pelham. Maintenance of dams in Massachusetts is regulated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Office of Dam Safety.
- All dams are required to be inspected, and the frequency of inspection depends on their hazard category. [DCR has categorized Atkins Reservoir Dam as High Hazard Potential, Hill and Hawley Reservoir Dams as Significant Hazard Potential, and Intake Reservoir Dam as Low Hazard Potential based on potential damage resulting from failure. Note that this classification does not take into account condition of the dam or how well it is managed.] Dam inspections are done by a Professional Engineer who evaluates the condition of the dam and appurtenant structures, and provides information to assist the Town is prioritizing maintenance and repairs. Information can be found here: https://www.amherstma.gov/1925/Information-About-Dams
- The Town applied for a state grant this year to make improvements to Atkins
Reservoir Dam. Although we didn’t get the grant, Town staff will continue to monitor the conditions of the dams – with the Town’s engineering firm – and will continue to seek funding sources to improve the conditions of the dams.
- o Puffer’s Pond Dike and Dam: The Department of Conservation and Development maintains the dike and the dam at Puffers Pond.
- Puffer’s Pond: Information on Puffer’s Pond can be found here: https://www.amherstma.gov/1319/Puffers-Pond-Dam
- Dam: The dam is where the water flows, which we all see as the waterfall. o The dam was originally made as a dry-laid structure so that water could weep through, and a larger 3’ x 3’ sluiceway was incorporated into the dam to lower the water level for inspection and cleaning, and to feed water into a pipe that powered mills downstream. This sluiceway is operated manually with a hand wheel located on a footbridge on the upstream side of the dam near the right abutment. Although the entire top of the dam acts as a spillway, there is a 50 feet section near the right abutment that is 6 inches lower than the remainder of the crest, allowing low levels of water to cascade down this side of the dam (Tighe and Bond 2008 Report).
o The Town is to conduct periodic inspections of the dam, which are done by structural engineers with expertise on dam safety. We also have an Emergency Action Plan in the event that something was determined to be wrong with the dam or a weather event caused us to be concerned about the safety of residents down stream. We are in the process of updating this plan and will be contracting for another dam inspection soon. The dam typically receives fair to good ratings.
- Dike: The dike, which is to the north of the dam, is a much more complex issue. There has been some uncertainty about the responsibility for maintaining the dike because it is on private land. However, we are now having productive discussions about how to move forward with repairs. This is a high priority for the Town and one that staff is working on actively.
- Beaches and Trails: Puffers Pond is also in need of dredging along with beach and trail restoration. Staff are actively working on plans for dredging, beach and trail improvements, and dam and dike repairs. We have hired Fuss and O’Neil Engineering to pull together a set of plans and cost estimates. The pond must be dredged or we will lose it as a recreational resource. Eventually, it will simply fill in and become a swamp. We have some prior year capital funding for this purpose and FY24 funds as well. Our goal is to present our plans to the Conservation Commission, Town Council, and other boards and committees this winter. We will need additional funds for this work.
- Water Quality: Bacteria issues continue to be an issue in the pond. We test weekly and up until this past few weeks we were doing pretty well. The intense rain events in recent weeks have caused E. coli levels to spike and that is why we have the issue. Staff are working to identify the source of the contamination. This is not as easy as it sounds. Sources may include dog waste, geese droppings, failing septic systems upstream, cracked or broken sewer pipes, or possibly the years of accumulated sediment in the bottom of the pond. We are focused on identifying the source or sources and may partner with the University on this work.
- • Grants: We recently submitted a large Municipal Vulnerability Grant
(MVP) grant to the State for some of this work at Puffer’s. Our focus was looking at the pond in the context of a “resiliency hub” or cooling center for residents and visitors to Amherst. As climate change continues to impact weather in our region there will be more extremely hot days in the valley. Puffer’s Pond provides a place for thousands of people to cool off and recreate each summer. Although it was a strong proposal, it was not funded. (The State funded a different – also important – project for the Town addressing culverts on Pomeroy Lane.) The Town will continue to seek grant funding to maintain and improve this important regional asset.
- Administration and Finance
- Finance Director: Finance Director Sean Mangano submitted his resignation. His last day of work will be August 25th. He will be returning to a school finance leadership position in another community.
- This is a huge loss for the Town, for the Town Council, and for me personally. Sean has been a strong, creative leader for the Town – and the School District before he came to the Town side of government. He has a steady hand, consistently delivers high quality work, possesses a strong strategic vision, and just has a wonderful ability to listen and adjust based on constructive input. He provided key leadership in rebuilding the Finance Department with great new staff after the retirement of several strong long-serving department heads.
- Sean has stated that many in the public do not know Holly Drake, Jennifer LaFountain, and Kim Mew who guide the day-to-day activities of the finance office. These individuals are experts in their fields (Comptroller, Treasurer/Collector, Assessor) and are amazing leaders for the Town.
- He said he was very proud of our accomplishments since he started in 2020. The Town has a number of exciting projects nearing completion over the next few years – including a new elementary school, new library, new water treatment facility, new track & field – that will provide tremendous benefits to residents.
- Sean was hired in 2020 to become Finance Director for the Town. He had previously worked for the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District for nine years. In his time with the Town, Sean developed a sophisticated financial plan that addresses the financial goals for the Town, including a new school, renovations to the Jones Library, and new buildings for the Department of Public Works and Fire Department. In addition, he assumed leadership roles on many other areas including the fiscal sustainability of the public school district, managing the Towns fiscal recovery from the pandemic including both CARES and ARPA funds, and played a key role in the strategic partnership agreement with the University.
- I want to thank Sean for his dedication to the Town and willingness to take on additional responsibilities. Working for the Town of Amherst can be hard, but Sean was always able to maintain a positive attitude. I respect his decision to seek a new opportunity that will bring greater work-life balance for him and his family. I’m sad to see him go but wish him the best in his new position.
- ARPA: I am reviewing the comments received after discussions with the Town Council and will prepare a final plan in the coming weeks.
- Cannabis: Town staff are developing procedures to guide the management of cannabis establishments to ensure equitable access in Town. These procedures are evolving to align with best practices with an overall goal of ensuring that cannabis use is done safely and responsibly. The Town is building on its goal, shared with the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), of ensuring equitable access to this industry. Specifically, the draft includes a requirement that the applicant’s business plan aligns with the values of the Town with respect to diversity, equity, and sustainability. The CCC Social Equity program provides training and technical support to applicants who have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, marijuana prohibition, arrests, and incarceration who meet certain income and residency requirements.
- Community Fellow: Our Local Finance Commonwealth Fellow, Ray Than, has been mentored by and shadowing the Town’s Finance Director this summer. He will conclude his engagement at the end of the month.
- Cybersecurity: The Town has been aggressive in ensuring the Town’s information technology infrastructure is protected and staff are trained to avoid unwanted intrusions. The Finance Director established a Cybersecurity Team to proactively work in this area. Some of the tasks include:
- Storage: Identify locations where sensitive data is stored; implement temperature sensors and water detection systems where appropriate; explore conversion of wet sprinklers to dry ones;
- Explore implementation of end point protection;
- Commit to completion of annual cyber health assessment;
- Draft password policy; document employee onboarding/offboarding processes; draft updated background check policy that considers more frequent background checks for positions with access to sensitive information;
- Draft clean desk policy; draft computers near windows policy (utilize privacy screens); develop permission review process for Munis;
- Update asset disposal policy to include additional protocols for disposal of technology equipment containing sensitive information;
- Draft updates to technology & data use policy to address gaps; draft incident response plan.
- Downtown Wi-Fi:
- The Town’s Information Technology (IT) Department has upgraded and installed new multi-gigabit 60GHz wireless links and access points throughout the downtown area.
- Funded by a grant from the State, the wireless network will cover over a half-million square feet of outdoor space including the Town Common, downtown outdoor dining areas, a downtown park, and a majority of parking areas.
- With the Town’s public service model increasingly predicated on digital and online services, equitable access to the internet is essential.
- The IT Department worked with the Department of Public Works electricians to install the Wi-Fi access points.
- Town staff are currently making adjustments to the configuration. In the near future, the Town will be adding another downtown park and play area, as well as both public pools.
- Town Clerk:
- Nomination Papers:
- Nomination papers for Councilor-at-Large, District Councilors, School Committee, Housing Authority, Elector of the Oliver Smith Will, and Jones Library Trustee are available at the Town Clerk’s office.
- Nomination papers for all of the above offices must be filed at the Town Clerk’s office by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.
- For full information, please visit our Running for Elected Office webpage here https://www.amherstma.gov/1079/Running-for-Elected-Office
- Human Resources: There has been a lot of action in the Human Resources office lately. The Director has been actively engaged in many initiatives. First, we want to thank the H.R. staff who have been phenomenal during the period. We are very pleased to welcome a new Human Resources Manager, Serena Harris, to the team. The team has been processing dozens of new hires – mostly summer hires in the Recreation Department, negotiating three collective bargaining agreements, preparing for important search efforts for department heads as noted below, and handling some very complex personnel issues. We are fortunate to have such highly qualified and experienced staff in this office.
- Police Chief Search:
- The Human Resources Director and I have been working on the search for a new Police Chief. See the detailed memo to the Town Council at the end of this Report which includes a schedule of the process.
- We have engaged a professional search firm, GovHR, Inc. https://www.govhrusa.com/ to conduct outreach to the community, develop a position profile, and support the Human Resources Director in advertising and recruiting; to develop interview standards and questions; and to conduct a background check on the appointed candidate.
- We will be having extensive listening sessions in various forms on September 11th and 12th and additional outreach on September 18th and 19th. Each member of the Town Council will be invited to meet with the consultants one-on-one. As required by the Town Charter, I will appoint an advisory screening committee to advise me on the appointment.
- Finance Director Search: The Human Resources Director will also be initiating the search for a new Finance Director after the position description is updated and reviewed.
- Public Health Director Search: We are in the final stages of the search for a new Public Health Director and I anticipate making an appointment in the very near future. This appointment will then be reviewed by the Town Council within 14 days.
- DEI Department:
- Human Rights Commission:
- The Human Rights Commission submitted its Annual Report to the Town Council for its review.
- The Human Rights Commission has developed recommendations to change the General Bylaw for Human Rights. The DEI Director has also developed recommendations based on her professional expertise and experience working under the Bylaw in her tenure with the Town. We will reconcile these two version, review them for legal consistency, and present the options to the Town Council for its review.
- Since the last Town Manger report, the Fire Department, Senior Center and Health Department have participated in trainings. The workshop scheduled for Town Hall departments will likely occur in October. The Library is scheduled to have a workshop in September. With training of the Recreation Department this Fall, all Town departments will have been offered trainings. In November we will begin the second round for each department beginning with the Department of Public Works and the Police Department. The plan is to offer monthly DEI staff only workshops, and bi-monthly community workshops. Amherst College has offered to conduct 3-4 staff workshops. We are looking into additional way to engage the GARE membership to extract more value from that relationship.
- A recent workshop on Gender Inclusion was conducted by two staff members – one from the Senior Services Department and one from the CRESS Department for the work you put into the training.” I add my thanks to the DEI Department and the trainers they have been bringing in. I am especially proud when our own staff are the trainers, as was the case in this training.
- Reparations: The African Heritage Reparation Assembly continues its work under the leadership of Councilor Miller.
- Community Visioning: The DEI Department is working on multiple community visioning sessions, focused on the “Beloved Community” model and working with Dr. Barbara Love. The League of Women Voters has expressed interest in supporting this initiative and we are scheduled to be in touch with them later this month. The next steps are to connect with the League and work through the procurement process to contract for the services we desire.
- Resident Oversight Board: The RFP process for the Resident Oversight Board did not result in our engaging a consultant. This is a big disappointment. The DEI Director and Finance Director had devoted significant time and effort to bring this to a successful engagement. The DEI Director has developed several alternative paths to expedite the process to establish a Board and has met with the Finance Director and procurement staff about expediting the RFP for the Resident Oversight Board consultant.
- Police Protocols: Work on police protocols will be a priority for the permanent chief, once appointed.
- CRESS: The progress for CRESS has been great with the program moving from concept to fully operational in a matter of months. There have been, and will continue to be, interactions and experiences that have become learning experiences as we learn and build this program.
- Youth Empowerment Center: Expect to have a task force established to move this project forward by your next meeting. An Americorps member has been recruited and is scheduled to start later this month. The member will be working only on youth programming, which is an initial step of involving youth in the development of an Empowerment Center. The first gathering of youth will take place in September.
- Police Department:
- POST: The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission was established as part of the criminal justice reform enacted in Chapter 253 of the Acts of 2020. Its mission is to improve policing and enhance public confidence in law enforcement by implementing a fair process for mandatory certification, discipline, and training for all peace officers in the Commonwealth. Additional information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/post-commission
- Community Safety Day: The Senior Center organized the second annual Community Safety Day on Saturday, August 12th at the Mill River Recreation Area. Police, Fire, CRESS along with other agencies demonstrated ways the community can make themselves safer. It was a great success and was fun for children, seniors, and everyone in-between.
- Fire Department:
- Recruits: The Fire Department’s three new recruits have been in training for several weeks and taken well to it. Training a group with different skill levels can be a challenge but our instructors have been able to adapt the regimen to keep the recruits engaged and moving forward without anyone falling behind. Overall, the recruit training has been positive and we see it continuing along that path.
- Community Responders Department:
- Government Performance Lab: The Town was admitted into the 2023-2024 Alternative 9-1-1 Emergency Response Implementation Cohort of the Government Performance Lab (GPL) at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
- Community Services
- Public Health: Some issues are newly emerging, and some have been here all along and are being uncovered as the COVID pandemic recedes and becomes endemic.
- COVID and the New Monovalent Vaccine:
- The next COVID vaccine for the fall will be aimed at the current dominant omicron XBB variant strain. No word yet on any timetable for future schedules, for example whether to have an annual fall vaccine similar to the flu.
- The Health Department is holding Pfizer, Bivalent boosters for ages 12 years and older the first Wednesday of every month, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, at the Bangs Community Center. Registration is preferred, walk in appointments are available. There are many other nearby sites that continue to offer vaccination for other ages. Additional clinics will be offered come the fall, for COVID and the flu vaccine at various locations in Town.
- Free Rapid Antigen Tests are available at the Bangs Community Center for the public as well as being distributed to community partners. The shelf life has yet again been extended and our lots expire September 28, 2023. Use Rapid Antigen Tests to test for COVID before you visit, and after if you are symptomatic to prevent spread to others.
- Mosquito Surveillance:
- The Town and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) are actively monitoring the level of mosquito activity. the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District (PVMCD), of which Amherst is a member, is routinely trapping and testing mosquitos to monitor for mosquito-borne diseases that pose a risk to human health. Information from the PVMCD can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/pvmcd-surveillance-update-july-2023/download
- The PVMCD conducts surveillance to support public policy decision and to guide prevention education, planning, and activities to reduce the risk of human disease for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV).
- At last report, there were 15 positive WNV mosquito samples in the entire state, four positive mosquito samples in the Pioneer Valley, and two in Hampshire County (in South Hadley and Hadley). This is not an unusual number of positive cases and doesn’t represent a major threat to human health. For comparison, there were two positive mosquitos by this time of year in 2017and did not have a single human case of WNV that year.
- Currently, the Town of Amherst is at “remote risk” for EEE, meaning it is usually not found in the area and low risk for WNV, meaning infection is unlikely for the disease. Generally speaking, an increase in the mosquito population can lead to an increased risk of disease transmission.
- All mosquitoes start their life cycle in water, in as little as ten days eggs can grow to lava to flying insects. We encourage residents to eliminate breeding mosquitoes by dumping out standing water such as birdbaths and plant saucers. Avoid mosquito bites by using EPA approved repellents, appropriate clothing and avoiding peak mosquito activity between dusk and dawn.
- Amherst is now a full member of the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, PVMCD. Mosquito surveillance started June 12th and the first results were posted at the Massachusetts DPH website. It is good to check in and assess your risk during the season, especially as the summer continues and the cycle ramps up.
- Senior Center:
- Newsletter: The new newsletter from the Department of Senior Services – which includes a listing of all of the dozens of workshops and meetings being offered by the Department – Amherst Senior Spirit, is now available: https://www.amherstma.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/16125
- Community Safety Day:
- The Senior Center sponsored the second annual Community Safety Day as a way to promote public safety and connect individuals with their local first responders. This is especially important for older adults because they represent about a third of Amherst’s 9-1-1 calls.
- The event brings together the Fire Department, Police Department, Community Responders, Sheriff’s Department., and Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.
- The event took place on Saturday, August 12th at the Mill River Recreation Area. Featured activities include a touch-a-truck, jaws of life presentation, k9 demonstration, car seat inspections, information booths, face painting, a live DJ and La Mesa food truck.
- Rainbow Coffee Hour: The Senior Center is sponsoring a monthly gathering of members of the LGBTQI+ communities for a social hour with “No agenda; No format; Just community.” The first coffee hour will be in the Bangs Community Center.
- CR Café: The Senior Center is continuing its weekly CR Café, which stands for
“Can’t Remember” café! Every Wednesday from 10am – 12noon, Town residents are invited to the Senior Center to enjoy company, entertainment, and some good treats!
o Veterans Services: The Department is working with a tax work-off volunteer to establish a monthly Veterans Lunch program, sponsored by the CRESS Department. The lunch is the last Wednesday of every month at 12:00 noon
- Craig’s Doors maintains its (air conditioned) Resource Center Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm. They welcome anyone in need of relief from the heat to visit. They have a ready supply of snacks, water, Wi-Fi, showers, and good company. The Resource Center is located at 434 North Pleasant Street (green trailer behind First Baptist church).
- Craig’s Doors moved their guests from rooms at the University Motor Lodge to the first floor at the former EconoLodge hotel at 329 Russell Street in Hadley which is owned by Valley Community Development. The new location provides a dramatic increase in the quality of life for their guests because it is closer for those who go to appointments in Northampton and rely on public transportation. The hotel has 24 hours a day, seven days a week staffing on-site.
- Conservation and Development
- Neighborhood Outreach: The University and the Town will be holding Neighborhood Resource Fairs in the following neighborhoods which are open to the public:
- Fearing Street Neighborhood: September 14th; 4:30 – 7:00 p.m.; Philips Street between Nutting and AllenFarview Neighborhood: September 19th; 4:30 – 7:00 p.m.; Valley Lane cul-de-sac
- The Town has reactivated our search for a Planner as the Department is still short one staff member. The Town is also seeking a housing planner utilizing funds specifically designed to support affordable housing.The Town’s Community Preservation Act Grant application window opens on September 1st and closes on September 30th. The Community Preservation Act Committee welcomes applications for projects in support of Community Housing,
Historic Preservation, Open Space, and Recreation. Information can be found here:
- Boltwood Garage: The Planning Department engaged an engineering firm to assess the condition of the Boltwood Garage and determine the structural capacity to handle additional levels for parking. The study is complete and will be presented to the Town Council in the near future. In short, the study reports:
- The Boltwood parking garage is in good overall condition. Recommended repairs include repair of concrete at walls, stairs, and the slab on grade. Drainage improvements include replacing the damaged leader, as well as installation of a pipe guard, and jet cleaning of the system. Failed sealants at the stair tower headhouses should also be removed and replaced. They estimate a budget for the recommended repairs between $100,000 and $125,000.
- The firm also conducted a feasibility study to assist the Town with rendering a decision to further pursue an expanded study and/or design for the expansion of the Boltwood Garage.
- To achieve this objective, key critical elements that included the review of structural capacity, functionality, costs and influences of adjacent developments were studied. Utilizing existing documents, site visits and input from the Town, the Design Team evaluated the site, structure and developed alternative expansion options, probable costs of construction along with pros and cons for each potential option.
- The findings of this study indicate the structural foundations can support one to two additional level of parking for passenger vehicles.
- Truck loading on the 1st supported (grade) level would need to be eliminated for the option that adds two additional levels of parking.
- The concepts developed indicate that the existing 180 space garage with a one level expansion, can yield up to an additional 122 parking spaces (302 total). Considerations for a two-level expansion, revealed that an additional 235 spaces could be created for a total of 415 spaces.
- Block Party: The BID Block Party is scheduled for September 21st. There will be added features including a second stage for entertainment in the Kendrick Park area and collaboration with the Cultural Council to add even more attractions.
- Summer Concerts: The BID summer concert series concluded last Friday.
- West Cemetery: Over the past several months many of the damaged and knocked over gravestones in the West Cemetery have been restored by an outside company.
Still more to fix but they have done a wonderful job restoring them in a respectful manner
- Valley Green Energy: Amherst, Northampton, and Pelham formed the Valley Green Energy, a new electricity program that intends to bring cleaner electricity, stable electricity prices, and new electricity choices.
• The program is a municipal electricity aggregation, which is a type of group electricity purchasing program. Through Valley Green Energy, the communities will use their collective buying power to increase the amount of renewable electricity in the electricity supply for all three communities. The program will also provide new electricity choices for residents and businesses, giving electricity customers greater control over the price and environmental impact of the electricity they use. While Valley Green Energy will not be able to guarantee lower prices compared with Eversource Basic Service prices, the communities are committed to working toward providing prices that are competitive and stable for the long term.
• The Valley Green Energy Working Group met recently to discuss minor changes to the CCA application – some of which were the result of public comment. The group decided on one minor change.
- The group unanimously felt that the other suggested changes from comment were premature and should be considered at a time when the CCA is fully established and an electricity supplier is being considered. The suggested changes may have locked us into something and limited our options.
- Other changes to the application presented by the consultant were a result of requirements by the Department of Public Utilities. and were not negotiable or subject to change – the information was presented more to inform.
- The consultants hope to do submit the application within a few weeks. The DPU is very specific on what and how information gets submitted. There are still a few outstanding items from one of the communities (not Amherst) which has required additional follow-up inquiries.
- Solar: The solar community outreach report from GZA is complete and has been provided to the Solar Bylaw Working Group and Energy and Climate Action Committee, as well as Department Heads. The solar feasibility mapping tool is nearly complete and anticipated to be available soon.
- ValleyBike: The ValleyBike network communities have decided not to deploy bikes this season and are concentrating efforts on developing an RFP to identify a new vendor/operator for the system.
- Fellows: The Town’s Fellows from the University of New Hampshire’s
Sustainability Institute concluded their work and made a presentation to key Town staff.
- Dashboard: The Sustainability Director and Director of Civic Engagement and Innovation met with KLA Associates to discuss development of a Community Dashboard that will prominently feature sustainability and climate change related initiatives. This project is being funded with ARPA Funds.
- o Housing:
- The Town has conducted extensive study and analysis of its housing needs to ensure there are a range of housing options available to residents and those who would like to live in Amherst. These include:
- Town Council Comprehensive Housing Policy (2021) https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/58050/Comprehensive-Housing-Policy)
- Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Strategic Plan (2017) https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/43717)
- Housing Production Plan https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=3092)
- Housing Market Study (2015) https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/43891/Comprehensive-Housing-Market-Study?bidId=
- UMass/Town of Amherst Housing and Economic Development Plan (2014) http://www.umass.edu/town-gown/sites/default/files/TGSC%20Narrative_FINAL.pdf
- Gateway Corridor Report (2011) https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/5250
- Master Plan (2010) https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=3092
- Springfield & Pioneer Valley Housing – Donahue Institute (2022) https://donahue.umass.edu/documents/Springfield__Pioneer_Valley_Phase_II_ Housing_Report.pdf
132 Northampton Road:
- Thanks to incredible support from the community, funders, and the skilled contractors from Western Builders, East Gables is almost finished and ready for people to move in!
- Valley CDC will
- hold a ribbon cutting for the East Gables development on Friday, September 22nd at 1:00 p.m. All Town Councilors are invited.
- The development is accepting applications for this newly constructed development consisting of 28 studio apartment homes. East Gables homes include off street parking, connecting walkways, covered bike storage area, and on-site laundry. https://www.valleycdc.org/affordable-housing/ball-lane-community-homes/ Valley received over 500 applicants for the 28 studio apartments, more than 250 of whom are currently unhoused. It would be hard to find a more striking illustration of the massive shortage of affordable housing.
- Ball Lane:
- Valley Community Development is making progress in its efforts to build an affordable homeownership development which will create an estimated 30 homes on an 8.33-acre property in North Amherst. The development will be duplex condominiums clustered around shared open spaces, and shared parking arrangements will minimize vehicular traffic and emphasize pedestrian connections.
- Valley acquired the site in August 2022 and is currently in the design phase. Valley presented the first schematic site and building plans at the District One Neighborhood Association BBQ in September 2022 with our design team, Peter Flinker from Dodson & Flinker Associates, and Tom Chalmers from Austin Design Cooperative, Inc. A second neighborhood community meeting was held on the property in April 2023 to review the site redevelopment and building plans to date. Valley intends to file a Chapter 40B Comprehensive Permit request with the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals this year.
- A request for $750,000 of Community Preservation Act funds was approved in February 2023 by the Amherst Town Council. These funds demonstrate local support for the proposed project. Last week, the Town’s Affordable Housing Trust allocated $350,000 of its funds to support the project.
- The proposed housing development includes an estimated 15 duplex condominiums clustered around shared open spaces, providing “pocket neighborhoods” within the site. The homes will be concentrated in previously developed areas, preserving the open space along Montague Road (Route 63) and Pulpit Hill Road. Homes will have a compact building footprint and integrate outdoor living spaces through building and site design. The homes will be passive solar and built to use the sun’s energy directly for either heating or cooling purposes. We anticipate the dwellings will be fossil-fuel-free, with the goal to add solar photovoltaics to reduce each home’s electricity cost and carbon footprint.
- Duplexes will combine 1-story, 1.5-story, and 2-story homes for variation in building rooflines and configurations. Homes will range from 960 to 1,310 GSF depending on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Homes will be designed as either 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom, with indoor and outdoor storage areas.
- East Street/Belchertown Road: The Town is working with the chosen developer, Wayfinders, on a land development agreement. The work on the development is moving forward nicely. With the due diligence work and designs well underway, we anticipate submitting the Project Eligibility Letter application to DHCD this spring to move the 40B process forward. Other work being done includes site design, wetlands flagging, and analysis of culverts.
- VFW – The site assessment and survey work is complete. Before demolition of the existing building can commence, the Town will need to assess the building for hazardous materials. The Town has been in discussions with various State agencies about this project. In the Fall/Winter, the Town will begin a community engagement which includes visioning for the site which will include an architectural analysis to develop conceptual designs. We plan on taking a field trip to view other successful project that have followed this model of congregate housing, transitional housing, and supportive services on one site.
- Public Works o Roads:
- Bids are being sought to pave the following roads. We hope to pave as many as possible, given the funds available. The list is in alphabetical order:
- Bellview Circle – Rolling Ridge Road to end
- Cottage Street – Chestnut Street to Morrow Lane
- Edgehill Place – Logtown Road to End
- Farmington Road– Applewood Lane to Pondview Drive
- Heatherstone Road – Pelham Road to Aubinwood Road
- Maplewood Drive – Strong Street to Maplewood Circle
- Market Hill Road – Flat Hills Road to Shutesbury Townline
- North Hadley Road – Lincoln Avene to Sunset Avenue
- North Pleasant Street – McClellan Street to Triangle Street
- Oak Knoll Street– Heatherstone Road to End
- Old Farm Road – Pinegrove to Crossbrook Avenue
- Salem Street – Main Street to end
- Stony Hill Road –(eyebrow) 83 Stony Hill Road to End
- Thistle Lane – Stony Hill Road to End
- Woodside Avenue – Northampton Road (Route 9) to Hitchcock Road
- Snell Street Sewer Main Break: A sewer main break caused the closure of Snell Street for about a week. The Road was closed at the Rail Trail bridge, with access maintained to properties on both sides of the break. The repair work, which included replacing an extensive amount of sewer main, was completed and the road reopened on August 14th.
- Pomeroy Village: Final touches are being made on the Pomeroy Village Roundabout. The roundabout is operational as the final pieces of the work continue.
- Kellogg Avenue: Taylor Davis Construction continues work on the sidewalk and road reconstruction on Kellogg Avenue and a small part of Boltwood Walk. This is a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funded project to improve the sidewalks and accessibility in this area.
- North Pleasant Street: Taylor Davis Construction has completed construction of a new mulit-purpose sidewalk on a heavily traveled part of North Pleasant Street, near the intersection of Pine and Meadow Streets.
- Northampton Road: Caracas Construction continues construction. This project is part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation roadway reconstruction project that extends between University Drive and South Pleasant Street.
- Pomeroy Court: Town staff, including the Town Engineer and Wetlands Administrator, have been working on various solutions to the Pomeroy Court flooding issue for quite some time. There is no easy solution, we all agree. Below I summarize the issues as I know them in the hope we can all understand the scope of the situation.
- • Pomeroy Court is a short cul-de-sac off of Pomeroy Street. There are nine houses on the upgradient section of the road. As the video and photos show, the low point of the road sometimes fills with water creating a deep puddle (more than a puddle, really) that residents and visitors have to drive through.
- There are several issues with this road:
- There is an intermittent stream that runs through the area and flows directly into stormwater structures. During storms, the flow from the stream overwhelms the catch basins down gradient. The catch basin surcharges and floods the road and the structures cannot drain.
- The road was constructed within the flood plain (Zone AE) Flood
- The culvert outfall (of the catch basin) – this is where the water from the catch basis is supposed to flow – is actually underwater, five-feet below “Land Under Water” in the adjacent wetland. Since it is under water, it cannot drain the catch basin. In addition, the outfall gets filled with sediment and Department of Public Works employees go out to this area regularly to dig out the sediment in the outfall to try to allow as much flow as possible.
- Solutions are few. This is not a simple paving job. Any solution will require extensive environmental permitting. Any solution will require a significant investment of funds, most likely Town funds.
- One of the reason solutions are complicated is because the road has underground utilities (water, sewer, electricity, cable, etc.). The presence of the utilities eliminates some options and increases costs substantially for others.
- The Town has explored numerous options to fix the problem. As I said, there are no simple or inexpensive solutions. They all require extensive permitting and construction.
- Some of the options we have explored are:
- Raise the elevation of the roadway to bring it above the flood plain elevation. Adding additional fill in the flood zone without compensatory storage would make the flooding worse.
- Relocate the culvert stream under two driveways to divert the water from the stream.
- Daylight the stream on Conservation land and create a flood mitigation area to deliver the water to Plum Brook.
- Install a bridge to elevate the road out of the flood plain.
- We are looking at other options and a combination of options, as well.
- Environmental constraints are considerable because the area is a very sensitive area, ecologically. Work would require permits for the following:
- Bordering Land Subject to Flooding (Flood Hazard Area)
- Riverfront Area
- Buffer Zone to Bordering Vegetated Wetland o Priority Habitat for rare and endangered species
- Next steps: Our Wetlands Administrator has been working with the Town Engineer to figure out the best path forward. They have consulted outside sources, as well. We are narrowing down the available options. First, we will be hiring a firm to come in and flag the wetlands, a firm to conduct survey work, and Town staff will be seeking estimates for construction work. Once this information is gathered, and a course of action is determined, the Town will be seeking a funding source.
- Hazardous Waste Collection: The next collection of hazardous waste is September 23rd.
- Short-Term Event Uses of Town Commons (Section 1a of the Town Council Policy):
- Short-Term Parking Requests (Section 2a of the Town Council Policy):
- Short-Term Public Way Closures (Section 3b of the Town Council Policy):
- Western Mass 10 – Hartford Marathon Foundation – November 5, 2023 – 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Triangle Street to North Pleasant Street to College Street to College Street to Main Street to Dickinson Street to Norwottuck Rail Trail
- Placement of Road and Temporary Signs (Section 3d of the Town Council Policy):
- Placement of one sandwich-board-style sign advertising the Amherst Mobile Market (permanently from June 6th – September 30th) to operate the Amherst Mobile Market in
the public way near the Valley Bike Station on East Hadley Road during the 2023 Mobile Market season.
- Installation of Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons (RRFB) at the following locations:
- Triangle Street at the intersection of Pray Street and Cottage Street;
- Triangle Street at Lessey Street;
- Amity Street at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue;
- East Pleasant Street at the intersection of Chestnut Street;
- East Pleasant Street at the intersection of Pray Street;
- Installation of a Reduced School Speed Limit Ahead for the School Zone on West Street near the Crocker Farm Elementary School.
MAJOR CAPITAL PROJECTS
- Jones Library:
- Up-to-the-minute updates can be found here:
- The Town will be seeking bids to rent or lease about 29,000 square feet of interior space for temporary use while the Jones Library is under construction. The property must be located within three miles of the existing Jones Library and be handicap accessible. The property must possess restrooms that can accommodate large numbers of visitors and possess ample parking. The space must be flexible and able to be remodeled by the Town if necessary at the cost of the Town. The property must be available for move in by January 1, 2024 and remained available to the Town until December 1, 2025.
- DPW Building/Fire Building:
- Staff continue to explore multiple options for a new site for the DPW.
- Elementary School Building Committee:
- Budget Update:
- Feasibility and Schematic Stages: The total amount of money the Town appropriated for Feasibility was $1,030,000. With the completion of this phase, the
- Design Development Stage: The Building Committee has approved fee proposals for the project’s Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) which is Anser Advisory and the Project Architect which is DiNisco Design have prepared fee proposals for Design Development, Construction Documents, Bidding, Construction and Closeout. The scope requirements for basic services for both OPM and Designer are described in standard MSBA contracts, which are required for use in MSBA- funded projects.
- The design team is meeting with the Town’s development review team which includes Inspection Services, Fire, Conservation, Planning, Health, Public Works, etc. in one meeting to map out the permit path.
- Cost estimates are due September 1st.
- Design Development plans are scheduled to be submitted to the MSBA on October 1st.
- Town Hall Steps: Repairs to the front steps of the Amherst Town Hall at the Boltwood Avenue side of the building has begun. The project is expected to last another 6-8 weeks The public is advised to use the accessible entrance on the Main St. side of the building during this time. Pedestrian access will remain open across the front of Town Hall, however there may be short durations when it’s blocked for the loading and unloading of materials. The two closest parking spaces and the entire entry area including the bike racks have been blocked during the duration of this project.
- Centennial Water Treatment Facility: Construction on the Centennial Water Treatment Facility has begun with permitting with the Town of Pelham, beginning site preparation to demolish the existing facility, and completing the financing and construction agreements with the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust which had voted to create a commitment for the Town’s loan. The agreement includes a Project Regulatory Agreement; Financing Agreement; and Loan Closings for the interim loan (0% interest); and permanent loan (1.5%). The Town will host a ground-breaking event on August 24th.
- Pomeroy Village MassWorks Grant: The construction of the new roundabout and pedestrian improvements including new crosswalks, sidewalks, and bus stops is nearing completion. I anticipate all work to be finished by early September.
- North Common Restoration/Main Street Parking Lot: A contractor has been selected and we are meeting with them to determine a work schedule including start date. I anticipate this work will commence in the coming weeks.
- North Amherst Library: Work is nearing completion. The garage will be removed in the near future and final landscape improvements will be made. We will be scheduling a ribbon cutting ceremony in September or October.
- Hickory Ridge:
o Solar: Conservation and other staff have been working with the construction team to clarify outstanding questions about some aspects of the project related to the battery pads, battery storage and the pole mounting systems. We are also awaiting word from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program on an update to the schedule for completing the required mitigation for the project. The mitigation is focused on planting native trees and shrubs in the riverfront. This is a requirement of the developer and not the Town. We anticipate construction to continue into 2024. During construction our main goal is to keep the public safe and make sure the project can make progress towards completion. Recent focus on the site has been to complete the perimeter fence around both arrays. We expect the trees to be removed in the coming weeks.
- Clubhouse: The clubhouse is in bad condition. The Fire Department has been using the building for training exercises. For instance, in this photo, the on-duty crew is out training on vertical ventilation, an important tactic in fire suppression. Most skills that Firefighters are tasked with performing are perishable, having the opportunity to train on real construction allows them to sharpen their skills.
UPCOMING MEETINGS AND EVENTS
- August 21-28 – Town Fair on the Town Common
- August 29th – First Day of School Celebration at Kendrick Park
- September 4th – Labor Day Holiday
- September 11th – Town Council Meeting
- September 18th – Town Council Meeting
- September 21st – BID Block Party
- October 2nd – Town Council Meeting
- October 9th – Indigenous Peoples Day
- October 16th – Town Council Meeting
- November 6th – Town Council Meeting
- November 7th – Election Day
- November 20th – Town Council Meeting
- November 23-24 – Thanksgiving Holiday
- December 4th – Town Council Meeting
- December 18th – Town Council Meeting
- December 22nd – Christmas Eve (half-day holiday observed)
- December 25th – Christmas Day Holiday
- January 1st – New Year’s Day Holiday
- January 2nd – Town Council Swearing-in Ceremony
- January 2nd – Town Council Meeting
Office of the Town Manager
Phone: (413) 259-3002
To: Town Council
Fr: Paul Bockelman, Town Manager
Melissa Loiodice-Walker, Human Resources Director
Dt: August 12, 2023 [Updated August 19, 2023]
Re:Police Chief Search Process
As you know, former Police Chief Scott Livingstone retired from the Town, and I appointed Captain Gabe Ting as the Temporary Police Chief.
Under Section 3.3(a) of the Town Charter, the Town Manager is the appointing authority for all department heads, including the Police Chief. Under 2.11(a) of the Town Charter, the Town Manager is required to refer department head appointments to the Town Council, which has 14 days to approve or reject the appointment or take no action, in which case the appointment is approved.
In accordance with the Town Charter, the Town is engaged in a search to ensure that the person appointed by the Town Manager is done on the basis of merit “demonstrated by examination, past performance, or other evidence of competence” and shall be a person “especially fitted by education, training, and previous work experience to perform the duties of the office or position”. (See section 6.2 of the Town Charter.)
The Town Manager has asked the Human Resources Director to be the staff lead in recruiting, interviewing, and recommending finalist candidates to the Town Manager.
To support this work, the Town Manager will appoint an advisory screening committee to assist in the review of applications and conduct the initial interviews of candidates. I will ask the advisory screening committee to provide me with advice and counsel on the appointment.
We have engaged a professional search firm, GovHR, Inc. https://www.govhrusa.com/ to conduct outreach to the community; develop a position profile; support the Human Resources Director in advertising and recruiting; develop interview standards and questions; and conduct a background check on the appointed candidate.
- Community Engagement o GovHR will:
- Conduct two in-person open forums with members of the public
Town Manager Report – August 21, 2023 – Page 20 of 22
- • September 11-12
- Engage in targeted outreach to specific community groups (staff, youth, community groups)
- September 11-12
- Conduct one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders (Town Council, Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, Human Rights Commission, key Town staff, Police staff, etc.)
- September 18-19
- Provide a summary report based on the information gathered during the interviews and open forums and review with the Town Manager and Human Resources Director
- Develop and provide a draft position announcement to the Human Resources Director
- Town Manager and Human Resources Director will:
- Develop charge for advisory screening committee
- Recruit and appoint members to serve on the advisory screening committee
- Finalize criteria for Police Chief
- Advertising and Outreach
- Human Resources Director will:
- Draft and finalize criteria and position announcement
- Place ads, purchase online advertising, and conduct candidate outreach
- Conduct and manage all candidate outreach
- September – October
- GovHR will:
- Review and provide suggested revisions of position announcement to maximize candidate interest
- Provide a list of suggested online advertising sources
- September – October
- Candidate Evaluation, Screening, and Appointment
- Human Resources Director will:
- Review all candidates
- Staff the advisory screening commttee
- Develop draft questions to ask during the interview process
- Manage all contacts with candidates
- Schedule and oversee interviews
- GovHR will:
- ▪ Meet with the Advisory Screening Committee to provide an orientation and protocols for the interviews
- Review final candidates and provide due diligence services including:
- Candidate questionnaire
- Internet search
- Social media search
- News media search
- Meet with the Advisory Screening Committee to present information provided in the due diligence process
- Conduct deep background screening of the finalist selected by the Town Manager
- September – November
- Advisory Screening Committee will:
- Review and approve questions to ask during the interview process
- Review candidates in accordance with criteria
- Select candidates to interview
- Meet with GovHR to prepare for interviews and set protocols for interviews
- Narrow the candidate pool to up to three finalists to recommend to the Town Manager
- Meet with the Town Manager to discuss candidates
- Town Manager will:
- Conduct interviews of finalists
- Make appointment
- Refer appointment to the Town Council
- Request extension of time for Temporary Police Chief
- (October 23rd per Charter Section 3.3(b))
- Town Council will:
- Review appointment and vote to approve, reject, or take no action within 14 days of referral