Comerford secures $1M for Franklin, Hampshire county projects

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford FILE PHOTO

  • An amendment to the economic development bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month includes $100,000 to help fund Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s now roughly $5 million investment in creating a state-of-the-art clinical/teaching facility at 48 Sanderson St. in Greenfield, pictured. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • An amendment to the economic development bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month includes 200,000 for infrastructure repairs at Shutesbury Elementary School, pictured. CONTRIBUTED

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2022 12:46:12 PM

A series of education, family medicine, food access and infrastructure projects across Franklin and Hampshire counties are among the local recipients included in a $3.76 billion spending package signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this month.

“I’m delighted that the Senate included these regional education, food security and health care priorities in our final spending package,” said Sen. Jo Comerford, who helped to secure $20 million for the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in addition to the $1 million in targeted spending across both counties. “I’m grateful to the constituents who raised these needs and opportunities with our office and grateful to my team for helping me bring this money home to our people.”

The money, included as part of an amendment to an economic development bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month, includes $200,000 for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program administered by the Greenfield-based Franklin County Community Development Corporation; $200,000 for elementary school infrastructure repairs in Shutesbury; $175,000 to support a diverse teacher workforce initiative out of the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services and to support the nonprofit’s work in Northampton Public Schools; $275,000 for repairs to fire damage incurred at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton; and $100,000 for Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s family medicine residency program in Greenfield.

Dr. Robert Baldor, founding chair and professor for the University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate Department of Family Medicine, said the $100,000 will help fund the hospital’s now roughly $5 million investment in creating a state-of-the-art clinical/teaching facility at 48 Sanderson St., the work for which has started and is ongoing.

“It’s a really nice recognition from the state of the need in this area,” he said. “It really is a long-term investment into Franklin County.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, the cost of the project has “ballooned” from $4.2 million to between $5 and $5.5 million, according to Baldor. So far, the community has helped to raise upward of $600,000 to support it.

The first phase of the project is complete — the buildout of the teaching space and conference rooms.

“We’re renovating the entire building, not just the educational space,” Baldor explained. “It’s a two-story building. Services that are there will all move downstairs and family medicine will take over the entire upstairs.”

Baldor said with the first cohort of family medicine residents on board and the second cohort set to start in July 2023, the next year will require patience as construction happens while doctors continue to see their patients.

“I recognize there are so many needs out there, and to recognize the importance of what this means for Franklin County … and helping us to move this forward,” Baldor began. “It’s wonderful (Comerford’s) office was able to come through with this.”

In Northampton, the Collaborative for Educational Services will receive $175,000, about $150,000 of which will support the work of the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition. The remaining $25,000 will benefit the collaborative’s work in the Northampton Public Schools, according to Director of Development Isolda Ortega-Bustamante.

“This allocation of $150,000 will support direct services to Black and Latino paraeducators and teachers on waivers on their journeys toward state licensure, help maintain current programming, support infrastructure-building and expand our work to achieve an ever-increasing impact in our region,” Ortega-Bustamante said in a statement. “The (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and most public school districts recognize expanding the teacher workforce and increasing teacher diversity as key issues, and (the Collaborative for Educational Services) is very fortunate to benefit from working with such great partners in our region to address these issues together, now with the incredible support of Sen. Comerford and her colleagues through this allocation.”

In Greenfield, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation will receive $200,000 to support the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, which provides loans, grants and business assistance to help get healthy, affordable food to low-income, underserved areas.

“We’re very excited and grateful,” commented Senior Program Manager Rebecca Busansky. “Seeing the impact over the past four years since we’ve launched the program, it’s really become important to sustain and now grow the program.”

She said this $200,000 will complement the $1 million the program receives each year from the state.

“We’re supporting a lot of small independent supermarkets, mobile markets, farm stores, farmers markets and farm stands with the kind of healthy food financing we’ve seen make a difference in other states,” Busansky explained. “It’s really been exciting ... and we’re excited for the work to come.”

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


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