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 16 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.
• Councilor Recognition:
Councilor Lopes: Councilor Anika Lopes was voted one of the Indigenous Leaders of Massachusetts as voted by MassLive readers. Councilor Lopes was recognized for her artistic drive which was first motivated by her grandfather Dudley Bridges’ restoration work on Civil War tablets.
• Councilor Miller: Councilor Miller wasrecognized by the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and Robin Rue Simmons’ First Repair for her work advancing ReparationsNow through the African Heritage Reparation Assembly. At this 3rd symposium, the Town’s representatives were part of over 200 attendees representing more than 75 initiatives. The Town of Amherst was held up as an inspiration to and generative of the spread of reparations in the country.
• Professional Update: I am honored to have been nominated by the other municipal managers in the State to serve as the 2nd Vice President of the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association, which includes membership on the organization’s Executive Committee and membership on the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s Board of Directors.
• Community Outreach:
• Webinar: I participated on a panel on “Form of Government FAQ” webinar. I joined the Department of Revenue’s Chief of the Legal Bureau and the Chief of the Finance Management Bureau along with several other local managers to discuss questions asked during a charter review or government study process including he legal process for charter change, position titles, and resources available to communities. Over 175 people attended the webinar, which was sponsored by the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
• Rotary: I spoke at the Rotary Club of Amherst on November 2nd at the Inn on Boltwood. I
was able to share some of the work being done in the Town and some of the opportunities that are coming down the road.
• Cuppa Joe with Paul:
▪ The next Cuppa is scheduled for Friday, December 1st; special guest and location to be announced.
• Radio: I have been joining a monthly interview on WHMP’s Talk the Talk radio show.
Most recently, I was accompanied by the CRESS Implementation Manager as the topic was about CRESS and its implementation and development. Previously I was joined by the Fire Chief and Director of Communications and Civic Innovation.
• Intern Report: Our intern, Maggie Roberts, a student at Westfield State University, is wrapping up her work this month on a database of Town Council actions related to public ways, parking regulations, utility petitions, and other Council-approved measures that pertain to public works. Working with the Clerk of the Council, she gathered input from stakeholders in various departments to create a database that will be functional in cataloguing Town Council actions and follow up actions performed by the several departments. After spending time considering the multiple needs and uses of the database, Maggie has worked to populate it with Town Council actions up to the present. She is writing a final report for her internship, which concludes this semester.
• Transportation and Parking Commission: I will be preparing a more detailed proposal for recommendations for addressing transportation and parking issues for the Town Council. I am working with the chair of the Transportation Advisory Committee and others to finalize the proposal for the Town Council, which I will submit to you before the end of the calendar year.
• Administration and Finance
▪ Budget: The presentation of the Financial Indicators to the Town Council, School
Committee, and Board of Library Trustees kicked off the FY25 budget season. Department heads are reviewing fees, developing budget requests, and identifying capital needs. The Town’s budget will be presented to the Town Council on May
▪ Audit: The Town’s auditors returned the week of November 27th. When they complete their work, we will schedule a meeting with the Town Council’s Finance Committee to review the findings.
▪ Assessors: The Principal Assessors asked me to share this information:
• When valuing property, we always consider two approaches to valuation.
The sales approach (most commonly used) and the income approach. The sales approach is preferred if there is enough data because it provides factual information based on what a willing buyer will pay to a willing seller.
• The Department of Revenue provides guidance that all communities must follow. For instance, if a property is occupied as a residence – regardless of if it is owner-occupied or not – it is classified as a residence. However, if there is a property that has both commercial and/or industrial and a residential, it would be classified as a mixed-use and the income approach would likely be used. Residential properties with four or more units are
also valued with the income approach because there are too few sales of these types of property to use the sales approach.
• If there are enough sales of residential property in any given year there is
no need to use another method to value. The Department of Revenue would reject our valuation if we tried to value part of the residential class using one method and part using another. They are looking for uniformity to create fair and equitable valuation.
• The Principal Assessor has inquired with other communities to determine if they were valuing rental property in a way that was different that the
Town’s process. The communities all follow the same procedure as Amherst, including Northampton.
o Human Resources:
▪ Holidays: The list of Town holidays that will be celebrated in 2024 is attached at the end of this Report.
▪ Searches: The Human Resources Department will be scheduling the first meetings of the Search Committees for the CRESS Director and Police Chief in the very near future.
o Information Technology
▪ Cybersecurity: The Town has been aggressive in ensuring the Town’s information technology infrastructure is protected and staff are trained to avoid unwanted intrusions. We continue to receive every more sophisticated attempts to breach our system. I urge all users with Town email addresses – including Town Councilors – to be vigilant about email you receive and to NOT click on any links unless you are 100% positive about the sender. We continue to “harden” our systems to try to prevent intrusions and to isolate damage if there is a breach and have contracted with a new firm to provide greater protection and resilience.
▪ Devices for Councilors: The IT Department will be reviewing the needs of each new and returning Town Councilor. Some older devices will be updated, and we will repurpose the older devices to staff.
o DEI Department:
▪ Staffing: The Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion is serving on the Interim
Leadership Team established by the Town to support the CRESS Department. The DEI Director leads the team that includes Fire Chief Tim Nelson, Police Sergeant Janet Griffin, and CRESS Implementation Manager Kat Newman to help stabilize the department. Assistant DEI Director Jen Moyston and AmeriCorps Member
Asa Stanley Kemler have taken on additional responsibilities to assist the Director in meeting the needs of both departments.
▪ GARE Membership: The office was able to obtain a reduced membership for the
Government Alliance for Race and Equity, and re newed the To wn’s memb ership.
▪ CORE Equity Team: Core Equity Team Members are staff members who self- identified and self-selected to learn about and promote issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The group met with a GARE representative to review the benefits of membership and the resources available to the Town through membership. The Core Equity Team hopes to regularly utilize the resources for personal and departmental professional development. Some CORE Equity members will serve as facilitators in the January National Day of Racial Healing events.
▪ Committees: The Community Safety and Social Justice Committee (CSSJC) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) welcomed new members by bringing both groups to quorum. The CSSJC is holding public forums on a number of issues including the CRESS Director search, The Police Chief search, and the CRESS Department.
• On September 24th the Human Rights Commission, Amherst Recreation, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with financial support from Amherst College, Kuhn Riddle Architects, and Encharter Insurance held a Latinx Heritage Celebration. Participants had the opportunity to quiz themselves on Fun Facts about Latinx Community, to participate in Salsa Dancing, to hear Latinx Music and enjoy a variety of food. Children received gifts bags prepared by Amherst Recreation and everyone had the opportunity to make papel picado.
• On November 19th the Human Rights Commission, Amherst Recreation and the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion held a festival of lights event. Attendees were able to participate in arts and crafts, hear traditional classical Indian music, watch a number of dance performances including a traditional Tibetan dance. Attendees were asked to learn a Bollywood dance and also enjoyed a variety of food.
• Upcoming events in December and January include, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kwanzaa, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the National Day of Racial Healing,
▪ Community Visioning:
• The Department has embarked on a community visioning process with a focus on public safety and social justice. Dr. Barbara Love conducted a Train the Trainer session for Liberatory Visioning which required a significant time commitment and was well attended.
• Work will continue on this program after this successful start.
• The Assistant Director of Workforce Equity and Inclusive Leadership at Amherst College offered a DEI workshop for Town staff in November, the workshop explored Supervision through a DEI Lens. The final DEI workshop for staff a Diversity Coffeehouse will occur on December 15,
2023. The Diversity Coffeehouse is a self-guided exploration of more than ten different DEI topics.
• The first round of workshops for Town employees in every Town department was completed with workshops offered to staff at the Jones
Library, staff in Town Hall and the Recreation Department. The next round of workshops for each department will begin in the new year.
▪ Reparations: The Town Council is reviewing the recommendations and I have sought legal advice on several questions and funding options.
▪ Resident Oversight Board: Following the unsuccessful RFP for a Resident Oversight Board, the Department worked with Procurement to develop another procurement process for seeking a consultant. The Original RFP was reduced in scope and divided into two “Seeking Written Quotes” (SWQ) requests. Following the first SWQ, a consultant was selected and has begun the work of planning and conducting four community engagement forums on the establishment of a Resident Oversight Board. The first forum will take place on December 17th with three additional dates to follow in January.
▪ Police Protocols: Work on police protocols will be a priority for the permanent chief, once appointed.
▪ CRESS: See the update on the CRESS Department below.
▪ Youth Empowerment: AmeriCorps Member Asa Stanley-Kemler has begun outreach efforts to youth. This position is working exclusively on youth programming, which is an initial step of involving youth in the development of an Empowerment Center. The DEI and CRESS departments are hosting this AmeriCorps Member whose time will be divided between the two departments. The AmeriCorps member’s primary duty will be to assist both departments in outreach to youth, research, and development of youth programming. The AmeriCorps member and the Assistant DEI Director are conducting a survey to obtain information about youth wants and needs and will begin planning events following the data collection.
o Police Department:
▪ Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and Co-Response:
• The Town’s CIT program is funded by an annual Department of Mental Health (DMH) grant. The DMH grant provides the Town with funds for training and provides a clinician for co-responses. The new clinician has extensive experience prior to coming to CSO. It is important to note that the clinician works for CSO and not the Town of Amherst Police Department. The new clinician will coordinate her services outside of the Police Department just as her predecessor did, which includes working with the Town’s CRESS Department, Craig’s Doors, etc.
o Fire Department:
▪ Open House: The Fire Department hosted an open house and provided a ladder
truck to transport Santa Claus as part of the Merry Maple festivities.
o Community Responders Department:
▪ Interim Leadership Team: The Interim Leadership Team met with the Community
Safety and Social Justice Committee for several hours on November 8th updating the Committee on its work and answering numerous questions.
▪ Staffing: The Town is reviewing applicants to serve as the CRESS Director and as Community Responders. There are three vacant Community Responder positions to be filled.
▪ Dispatch Calls: The Interim Leadership Team met with the Town’s Labor and General attorneys to review the issues of concern that have been raised. The goal is to establish policies and procedures to go live before the end of the calendar year.
▪ Community Engagement: The CRESS Department is collecting necessities for the unhoused population from Town employees. “Tia’s Totes” is a donation drive that will run from November 27th to December 8th. Donation bins are in Town Hall, the Bangs Community Center, and various other locations to make it convenient for Town staff to donate necessary personal goods. This is a great and generous initiative by a CRESS Responder who knows the needs of the unhoused and a way for Town staff to participate in helping to address that need.
▪ Public Presentation: Implementation Manager Kat Newman and Responder Vanessa Phillips attended the Library Journal Safety Conference with Library Director Sharon Sharry last week. They presented on the way CRESS and the Jones Library have collaborated on safety and security issues at the Jones with compassion and care.
• Community Services
o Public Health:
▪ The Public Health Department is working with the Fire Department to distribute
COVID testing kits (which were provided to the Town free of charge by the State ) to the community during this holiday season. They will also be distributing gloves, masks, and some health promotion supplies. They are prioritizing distribution to agencies that serve people who are less likely to have access to services and who may not have the means to purchase COVID tests.
▪ The Town is once again collaborating with the Northampton Department of Health and Human Services through the Public Health Excellence grant to host a COVID/Flu vaccine clinic at the Meadow View apartments. This will be held inmid-January. We hope to reach as many residents as possible who have not yet been vaccinated, including residents of nearby complexes such as the Boulders. Public Health staff will be promoting the clinic at Meadow View on December 6th during the Food Bank’s monthly visit to the complex and will be distributing COVID tests. We are testing this model as the vaccine clinic season winds down with the hope of building more relationships with apartment managers in the future that will facilitate ongoing outreach and connections to folks in low income housing.
▪ Public Health staff have formally restarted the Vaccines for Children program, which was on hiatus for a while during COVID. The Vaccines For Children (VFC) program is a Federally-funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. Funds are received by the State and distributed to local VFC providers, of which the Town of Amherst is one. Our Public Health nurse works closely with the Amherst public schools to receive referrals of students requiring vaccination in order to enroll or stay enrolled in school.
o Recreation: The Department has fully transitioned to its winter schedule, which focuses on basketball clinics and leagues.
o Senior Services:
▪ Staff: After 12 years of dedicated service, Program Director/Social Worker Helen MacMellon will retire at the end of the year. She will be missed!
• 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/16498
• The Director of Senior Services announced that at the beginning in January, the Senior Spirit will no longer be mailed. In an effort to reduce paper consumption and overhead costs. They will be switching to an electronic delivery format. This means the Senior Spirit will only be sent electronically. Hard copies will be available for pick up at the Senior Center. People without computers or internet access should call to request a paper copy be mailed, please call the Senior Center (413) 259-3060. Feel free to also email us at email@example.com with questions.
• To sign up for the electronic version of the Senior Spirit, create an Amherst Town website account, then go to: https://www.amherstma.gov/List.aspx , click the envelope icon, and follow the instructions. You can also view the newsletter archive by going to: https://tinyurl.com/seniorspiritarchive .
▪ Claus for a Cause:
• The Senior Services Department and Council on Aging are sponsoring
“Claus for a Cause” program from November 2 – December 8.
• The program seeks to address loneliness in the senior community by identifying homebound, isolated, or, any senior in need of holiday cheer.
• They will be collecting donations of warm clothes, puzzle books, tea, cocoa, candies, lotion, lip balm, etc.
o Veterans Services:
• There are two volunteer opportunities for this program: o 1. Bag packing: bags will be packed on Tuesday, December 12th. Interested individuals are invited to drop in during the Senior Center’s open hours (9:00am- 3:00pm) and join our merry crew. o 2. Delivery drivers: we are recruiting volunteers to deliver bags to seniors’ houses the week of December 18th. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a meaningful connection this season. Interested parties should contact Julia MacFadzen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
o For more information and donations drop-off locations:
▪ The Department holds a monthly Veterans Lunch program, sponsored by the CRESS Department, on the last Wednesday of every month at 12:00 noon at the Unitarian Universalist Society. We encourage Town Councilors – and any members of the public, to stop by and support our Veterans. This monthly event is organized by a local veteran who wanted to encourage veterans to come together to share stories and receive support.
• Conservation and Development
▪ The Town of Leverett has received interest from a firm seeking to develop the Kittredge property on Juggler Meadow Road (Article on Kittredge Property ). Part of the property is located in the Town of Amherst. Town staff are staying apprised of developments on this property, a remarkable, one-of-a-kind estate.
▪ The Department utilized funding provided by the Affordable Housing Trust to hire a part-time Housing Planner who started November 6th.
o Inspection Services:
▪ The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission found that Amherst Market at 259 Triangle Street had violated MGL Chapter 138 on six counts of selling an alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age. The Market’s license has been suspended for a period of eight days beginning January 8, 2024.
▪ Following the retirement of Jon Thompson, Health Inspector Ed Smith was selected to take over the Lead Code Enforcement Officer position. Ed will be the point person for rental registration and complaint response. Health Inspector Susan Malone was selected to take the Lead Health Inspector position and will focus her work on matters related to well, septic systems, and certain housing inspections. We are currently in process to find and hire a Health Inspector who will be the primary inspector to work with food establishments, camps, pools, and other health licensing and inspection programs.
▪ Valley Green Energy: Valley Green Energy is a regional energy services program known as an electricity aggregation, which is a kind of group electricity buying program for cities and towns with no hidden fees or penalties.
• Valley Green Energy is administered by the Town of Amherst, the City of Northampton, and the Town of Pelham. The purpose of Valley Green Energy is to contract on behalf of consumers for a supply of electricity.
• Participating in Valley Green Energy changes the Supply price on your utility electric bill, which is the part of the bill where you are charged for the electricity you use. Through the program, residents and businesses in member communities will have new choices and greater control over the cost and environmental impact of the electricity they use. Though Valley Green Energy will not be able to guarantee savings compared with Eversource’s or National Grid’s Basic Service prices, the communities are committed to working toward competitive and stable prices.
• In launching Valley Green Energy, Amherst, Northampton, and Pelham will join more than 150 other cities and towns in Massachusetts with similar programs. The communities are targeting 2024 for program launch.
• On October 13, 2023, Valley Green Energy (“VGE”) filed a request with the Department of Public Utilities (“Department”) for approval of a joint municipal aggregation plan pursuant to G.L. c. 164, § 134, which would serve the Town of Amherst, City of Northampton, and Town of Pelham.
• The Department will conduct a virtual public hearing to receive comments on VGE’s filing. The Department will conduct the hearing using Zoom videoconferencing on January 22, 2024, beginning at 2:00 p.m. Attendees can join by entering the link, https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82827455916, from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. No prior software download is required. For audio-only access to the hearings, attendees can dial in at (305) 224-1968 (not toll free) and then enter the Meeting ID# 828 27455916. If you anticipate providing comments via Zoom during the public hearing, to the extent possible, please send an email by the close of business (5:00 p.m.) on Friday, January 19, 2024, to
• Alternatively, any person who desires to comment on this matter may submit written comments to the Department via email no later than the close of business (5:00 p.m.) on Friday, January 19, 2024.
▪ Solar: The Solar Bylaw Working Group completed its work on a solar zoning bylaw to regulate the installation of Large Scale Solar Photovoltaic Installations and a zoning bylaw governing the installation of Battery Energy Storage Systems. The Working Group’s work along with other material was submitted to the Town Council for its consideration.
▪ 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. I note that all transportation systems and infrastructure are subsidized. This goes for the network for vehicles, transit — buses, trains, etc. Northampton, the lead agency on Valley Bike, received six responses this summer when it issued a formal request for information process seeking qualified operators. Eight communities — Springfield, West Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Easthampton, Northampton, South Hadley, Amherst — as well as the University of Massachusetts Amherst, host Valley Bike Share.
▪ Sustainability 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. The final reports from our summer ’23 UNHSI Fellows – the GHG Inventory Report completed by Caitlin Hart and the Municipal Building HVAC Inventory completed by Miguel Gothers-Reyes – are now complete and will be shared with the Energy and Climate Action Committee.
o Community Development Block Grant: The Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) has designated the Town of Amherst a Mini- Entitlement Community that is eligible to apply for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. CDBG funds support housing, community development projects, and social service activities benefiting low-and moderate-income citizens. In accordance with DHCD regulations, Amherst’s CDBG Advisory Committee will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, December 12, 2023 at
7:00 p.m. to receive comments and suggestions from local residents regarding:
▪ Community Needs and Priorities for the 2024
CDBG application process
▪ Social services
▪ Non-social services such as housing and public infrastructure
▪ The Draft 2024 Community Development
▪ Target Areas where non-social services can take place
▪ Housing Trust: The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) community assistance team has selected the Town of Amherst to receive support through its intensive technical assistance program for local housing trusts. The Town will receive up to eight months of direct technical assistance from MHP’s community assistance staff.
• The technical assistance grant will support the Trust’s Board of Directors in developing a strategic plan to identify and prioritize the many needs in our community. Specifically, the technical assistance will support Trust in identifying goals, strategies, and necessary procedures to focus the Board’s efforts in the coming years.
• The Trust has actively engaged with the community by sponsoring and participating in listening sessions on affordable housing and how racial equity and climate change and how they connect with affordable housing.
We now want to incorporate this valuable information into our work.”
▪ Affordable Housing Lottery: Center East Commons at 462 Main Street is conducting a lottery for three affordable apartments that will be rented to households with incomes at or below 8-% of the are median income ($55,800 for one person; $63,800 for two people). An information session will be held on December 11th. The application deadline is January 8, 2024. The lottery will be held on January 22nd,
▪ Ball Lane aka Amherst Community Homes: The ZBA held its second public hearing session on the Amherst Community Homes project, a 30-unit affordable home-ownership development proposed by Valley Community Development Corporation for the former Matuszko Trucking site in North Amherst. This is a Comprehensive Permit, i.e., Chapter 40B, project to which the Town has contributed CPA and Housing Trust funds. It is expected that the public hearing process for this project will be completed in early 2024.
▪ 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 and we discussed the project with Governor Healey and
Secretary Augustus during their visit to the Town.
o Economic Development:
▪ Supporting Local Businesses: I hope you will all visit and support our many local businesses this holiday season, and enjoy some of our much-loved annual holiday programming, including Small Business Saturdays through December until Christmas.
▪ Free Parking Saturdays/Sundays: In keeping with the holiday spirit, the Town is offering free parking on
December 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd in all metered spaces and lots in Downtown Amherst. This includes all municipal lots and metered spaces from College Street to Triangle Street and from North/South Prospect Street to Seelye Street (including Main Street from the Dickinson Homestead and part of Amity Street – up to the intersection with North/South Prospect Street).
▪ Boy Scouts Tree Sale: Again, this year, the Boy Scouts will be
selling trees at the southernmost portion of Kendrick Park. Sales will begin on
November 22nd and continue through December 23rd, or until all the trees are sold.
▪ Merry Maple: The new location for the Merry Maple celebrations worked really well as a very large crowd – AND the marching band from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – braved a slight drizzle to enjoy s’mores on the Town Common, horse drawn wagon rides, and a visit with Santa who arrived on one of the Town’s fire trucks.
▪ Business Improvement District (BID): At the Annual Meeting of the membership of the Amherst Business Improvement District, the members voted overwhelmingly to continue the District for a five year period commencing July 1, 2024. Congratulations to
the BID for all the success achieved in the previous five years. The BID noted five significant new buildings downtown (Kendrick Place, One East
Pleasant Street, 11 East Pleasant Street, 26 Spring Street, and 446 Main Street), the success of The Drake, and a remarkably low 3% vacancy rate downtown with nearly 30 new businesses opening, accompanied by several recent closures. There was a cautionary note that maintaining strong occupancy downtown depended on a steady stream of diners and shoppers.
• Public Works
o Stormwater Management Award:
▪ The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected Amherst as one of just six Massachusetts communities to improve stormwater management and advance environmental justice. The Town was selected to receive in-kind technical assistance from EPA to advance environmental justice for disadvantaged communities within the Pioneer Valley (Connecticut River Watershed).
▪ Through a series of meetings over the coming year, Amherst staff will work with EPA, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and consultant Horsely Witten on incorporating cost-effective green infrastructure into the Town’s stormwater management planning.
▪ Stormwater management has become critical in the effort to prepare municipalities for the effects of climate change. This grant is focused on helping environmental justice communities, such as Amherst, expand their stormwater management tool kit. The DPW staff looks forward to learning about nature-based (green) infrastructure options that will increase our resiliency to flooding caused by climate change and improve our ability to treat stormwater to improve the water quality of our rivers and streams.
o Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant:
▪ In August 2023, Amherst was awarded a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant of $170,000 to improve flood resiliency and water quality in the Fort River watershed by replacing three undersized, damaged culverts. Work has begun, and the Town has contracted with Fuss & O’Neill, an environmental consulting firm, to manage the data collection, design, and permitting.
▪ To see what data collection work has been completed to date, please visit our project webpage HERE
▪ As part of this project, the Town has created an on-line survey seeking your input on how important the Fort River is to you. Strong participation in this survey will help Amherst’s ability to obtain similar grants in the future. Please click HERE to complete the survey. We appreciate you taking a few moments to complete the survey!
o Tour of Wastewater Treatment Facility: The Mt. Holyoke College Environmental Science class toured the Wastewater Treatment Facility with the plant’s operators. The students learned from the staff how the plant manages nitrogen, etc. The Professors said the field trip helped the students solidify their understanding of “where water comes from and where it goes before and after we use it!”. The class is led by Dr. Kate Ballantine,
Marjorie Fisher Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, and Founding Director of the Mt. Holyoke College Restoration Ecology Program. The students and professor were very thankful to our staff.
o Road Paving:
▪ The Town awarded a bid of $2.75 million for paving the following roads.
Unfortunately, this work was not able to be started this fall due to the backlog of workload of the winning bidder. We anticipate the roads will be paved by the end of June, 2024.
▪ The Town Council appropriated an additional $1million from Free Cash to continue to address the need for paving. We will prepare a bid this winter for additional road paving.
o Solid Waste Hauler Request for Information: The Department issued a Request for Information from waste hauling companies to gather information about the market for solid waste services. The Town received three responses from companies that provided information. Town staff are now reviewing the information that was submitted and will share the results with the TSO Committee.
• Short-Term Event Uses of Town Commons (Section 1a of the Town Council Policy):
o December 1st – 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. South Common for Merry Maple celebration
• Short-Term Parking Requests (Section 2a of the Town Council Policy):
o As in years past, I have approved free parking at all meters and metered spaces in Downtown Amherst on Saturdays starting after Thanksgiving and running to Christmas Day, in support of Small Business Saturdays during the Holiday Season.
▪ Parking at all Town lots and meters in Downtown Amherst will be free on the following Saturdays:
• December 2nd
• December 9th
• December 16th &
• December 23rd
• Short-Term Public Way Closures (Section 3b of the Town Council Policy):
o Merry Maple 2023 – December 1, 2023 – 3:00 – 7:00 P.M. – Spring Street between Boltwood Avenue and South Pleasant Street (including parking lot) in its entirety and assistance with partial road closures for the UMass Marching Band from Haigis Mall to the Spring Street parking lot (North Pleasant Street, East Pleasant Street, South Pleasant Street)
• Placement of Road and Temporary Signs (Section 3d of the Town Council Policy):
o Speed Feedback Signs:
▪ South Pleasant Street:
• one southbound facing sign approximately 150 feet north of the intersection with Walnut Street;
• one northbound facing sign north of the Nortwottuck Rail trail tunnel, 75 feet north of the driveway to Amherst Farmers Supply;
▪ Amherst College to pay for purchase and installation of signs.
o Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB)
▪ South Pleasant Street:
• one pair on each side of the street at the crosswalk on the north side of the
Quadrangle Drive intersection;
• one pair on each side of the street at the crosswalk on the south side of the
Walnut Street intersection;
• one pair on each side of the at the crosswalk on the north side of the
Hitchcock Road intersection;
▪ College Street:
• one pair on each side of the street at the crosswalk on the east side of the
Boltwood Avenue intersection;
• one pair on each side of the street at the crosswalk on the west side of the
Noah Webster Circle intersection;
• one pair on each side of the street at the crosswalk on the east side of the
Seelye Street intersection;
• one pair on each side of the street at the crosswalk on the east side of the
▪ Locations currently have flashing bollards that were approved previously by the
Town, prior to the State and Federal standards for RRFBs;
▪ Installation of RRFBs meets warrants due to vehicle speeds, vehicle volumes, visibility, and pedestrian volumes;
▪ Amherst College to pay for purchase and installation of signs.
MAJOR CAPITAL PROJECTS
• Jones Library:
o The Town Council has been requested to appropriate the full amount of funding for the project, with the Library being responsible for raising the additional funds.
o Up-to-the-minute updates can be found here:
o The Planning Board began review of the Project on November 15th with a public hearing on its request for site plan and special permit approval.
o The Town has re-bid its request to rent or lease temporary space, reducing the request to
15,000 square feet of interior space for 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 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 as early as January 1, 2024 and remain available to the Town until December 1, 2025.
• DPW Building/Fire Building:
o The Town appropriated $100,000 to make emergency repairs to the existing DPW building to address some of the numerous issues that plague that structure. Facilities staff have examined the building and determined the highest priorities for utilizing these funds to make repairs. We will continue to assess the condition of the structure and the work conditions for the employees.
o Staff continue to explore multiple options for a new site for the DPW.
• Elementary School Building Committee:
▪ 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.
▪ Design Development plans were submitted to the MSBA in October.
• Town Hall Steps: Repairs to the front steps of the Amherst Town Hall at the Boltwood Avenue side of the building are nearing completion after overcoming some serious design challenges.
• Centennial Water Treatment Facility:
o Construction on this project began in May 2023. Construction on its replacement is expected to finish in May 2025.
o The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust awarded additional support for the Centennial
Water Treatment Facility. This award is equivalent to a $5,970,000 subsidy for the
$21 million project.
o The Town has five groundwater production wells and four surface water reservoirs that supply an average of 3 million gallons per day of safe drinking water to the residents and businesses, as well as Amherst and Hampshire Colleges, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and parts of Pelham, Belchertown, and Hadley. Having this facility online gives us the resiliency we need to overcome things that might impact our water system in the future.
o Until 2018, the Pelham-based Centennial Water Treatment Plant filtered about one- million gallons of water a day. The existing facility was in dire need of replacement, due to the age of the facility, as well as changes in the water quality that make the existing treatment process less effective. This project includes construction of a new Centennial Water Treatment Facility with effective and efficient treatment technology.
o The State Revolving Fund (SRF) is structured as a loan forgiveness program that is intended to make the project more affordable to communities and their rate payers.
• Pomeroy Village MassWorks Grant: We are awaiting the delivery of some signage to formally close out this very successful project.
• North Common Restoration/Main Street Parking Lot: With the favorable weather, construction continues on the North Common Renovations.
• North Amherst Library: The Certificate of Occupancy has been issued. The Library is moving its material into the building. The next step is to schedule a ribbon cutting!
• Hickory Ridge:
o Solar: Staff from Conservation, Inspections Services, and Fire are working with representatives of PureSky on the final design and permitting for the solar array at the former Hickory Ridge Golf Course. After months of delay, the project has been making its way back through the Conservation Commission and Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Most of the recent focus has been on updated plans for stormwater management, access to the site during flooding events, and the type and safety of the proposed batteries for the arrays. Staff anticipate continuing to work with the PureSky team on these issues during next 60 days. If all concerns are addressed construction should commence in the spring or early summer.
o Trails: Town staff have been working with State officials on the layout and design of the proposed trail network.
o Update: The Assistant Town Manager will provide an update on the site and plans at a meeting early in 2024.
UPCOMING MEETINGS AND EVENTS
➢ December 16th – Four Towns 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
Observed Town Holidays 2024
Municipal offices are closed on the following days:
Monday, January 1 New Year’s Day
Monday, January 15 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Monday, February 19 Presidents’ Day Monday, April 15 Patriots’ Day Monday, May 27 Memorial Day Wednesday, June 19 Juneteenth Thursday, July 4 Independence Day Monday, September 2 Labor Day
Monday, October 14 Indigenous Peoples Day
Monday, November 11 Veterans’ Day (observed)
Thursday, November 28 & Friday, November 29
Tuesday, December 24 (HALF DAY) Wednesday, December 25
Thanksgiving & Day After Christmas Eve Christmas
Religious & Other Recognized Holidays 2024
Municipal offices are open. Committees/Boards/Departments should be mindful of these holidays when scheduling public meetings. Town staff who observe these or other religious holidays should not be unreasonably denied time off and may request use of accrued time for compensation. Many of the following begin at SUNDOWN the day before. Reference: https://www.interfaith- calendar.org/2024.html . Please contact
Human Resource to recommend corrections or additions to the religious holiday calendar.
Saturday, January 6 Three Kings Day Friday, February 9 – Thursday, February 15 Lunar New Year Wednesday, February 14 Ash Wednesday Sunday, March 10 – Tuesday, April 9 Ramadan begins Monday, April 22 – Tuesday, April 30 Passover
Friday, March 29 7 Good Friday
Saturday, April 13 Vaisakhi (Sikh) Tuesday, April 9 – Wednesday April 10 Eid Al-Fitr Tuesday, June 11 – Thursday June 13 Shavuot
Wednesday, May 29 Birth of Bahá’u’lláh (Baha’i)
Sunday, June 16 – Monday, 17 Eid Al-Adha
Monday, August 26 – Tuesday, August 27 Janmashtami (Hindu) Wednesday, October 2 – Friday, October 4 Rosh Hashanah Friday, October 11 – Saturday, October 12 Yom Kippur Wednesday, October 16 – Wednesday, October 23 Sukkot
Wednesday, October 23 – Friday, October 25 Shemini Atzeret
Thursday, October 24 – Friday, October 25 Simchat Torah
Thursday, October 31 – Monday, November 4 Deepavali (Diwali) Thursday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 1, 2025 Kwanzaa
2024 Town & Religious Holidays – revised 10.5.2023