ARPA funds to benefit internet build-out, housing assistance in Greenfield

  • Greenfield City Hall. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner outside her office in City Hall. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2021 4:44:44 PM

GREENFIELD — Mayor Roxann Wedegartner shared Wednesday evening that a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding the city has been allocated will go toward completing the build-out of GCET, improving housing assistance and purchasing a Portland Loo.

“My North Star on ARPA spending was, as much as possible, to spend the money in ways that would benefit as many people as possible in Greenfield,” Wedegartner said. “And also to keep in mind that there are many people, and many segments of the city of Greenfield government, that were affected by COVID-19.”

The $1.9 trillion federal relief package that was signed into law in March provides Greenfield with roughly $5.1 million that can be used to respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts, as premium pay for essential workers, revenue replacement and for infrastructure projects such as broadband, water and sewer.

Wedegartner said Greenfield has $2.9 million in-hand to spend after receiving a portion of the payment in August, which the city has five years to spend. The city expects to receive the remaining balance in summer 2022.

Of that money, Wedegartner told City Council Wednesday night that $650,000 will be given to GCET (which stands for Greenfield Community Energy and Technology) for the internet service provider to complete its build-out.

“This will allow (GCET General Manager) John (Lunt) to move into north Greenfield, which I think is a priority for him,” she said.

Wedegartner said she also plans to set aside $100,000 for community assistance.

“Under community assistance, right now, I’m thinking primarily of some of the housing issues that we have,” she said. “To that end, I have authorized $24,000 to go to the Greenfield Housing Authority, so they can continue a very important program at the Winslow House.”

The Winslow House is a homeless shelter at the corner of Main and Wells streets with 55 single-room occupancy rooms, primarily geared toward those who are chronically homeless.

The funds would be used to effectively bring back a program there that — when instituted several years ago under different Greenfield Housing Authority leadership — aimed to support those individuals with wrap-around services.

“To that end, (Executive Director Tom Guerino) entered into a contract earlier this year with Gardner Athol Area Mental Health Association, an organization out of Gardner,” she continued. “It’s a really great group of people; they really do know what they are doing and they expanded it to Greenfield to help Tom provide those wrap-around services.”

The ARPA funds, therefore, will assist the Greenfield Housing Authority in extending its contract with Gardner Athol Area Mental Health Association through the end of this fiscal year, according to Wedegartner.

“I would be happy to assist him more with some of the ARPA money if I can,” she said. “I feel like this is one of the greatest ways to help the Greenfield Housing Authority provide these services, and also help us downtown, so the people who need these services can access them and hopefully get their lives back together again and move on to more permanent housing.”

And finally, Wedegartner told councilors the city will set aside $200,000 to purchase a Portland Loo, a standalone restroom “specifically designed to prevent problems that are commonly experienced in public toilets,” the company’s website states.

“It’s a very safe, very healthy, very easy public toilet to maintain, as opposed to our Porta Potties,” Wedegartner said.

In recent months, the city has been engaged in discussions surrounding concerns for the state of the Porta Potties in Greenfield, which have reportedly been used as a trash receptacles for hypodermic needles.

“(The Portland Loo) discourages illegal activity,” Wedegartner told councilors. “It has blue lights, so it’s more difficult to use it for intravenous drug use.”

At this point, a location for the restroom has not been decided, she noted.

“We have to make sure there is public water and sewer available, and we can access it easily,” she explained. “There are a couple of places I’ve identified downtown, but we haven’t gone into depth on whether they can actually be put there — the Energy Park would certainly be one (option), some area close to the parking garage would be another.”

Resident Pamela Goodwin said she was happy to hear that money would be set aside for a Portland Loo.

“I would love to see more money go into homelessness,” she added. “And I’m glad to hear that some of the money will be going to Greenfield Housing, and they’re working on that.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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