Giarusso gets grants: Leyden receives over $1 million in state grants in July

  • Michele Giarusso, municipal assistant in Leyden, at her desk in the Town Office. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2021 3:06:27 PM

LEYDEN — With the acquisition of two new grants in the amount of $395,000 and $675,500 in July, Municipal Assistant Michele Giarusso has brought in more than $2 million to Leyden through grants in as many years.

Along with six other towns in Franklin County, Giarusso received notice of the $395,000 grant to replace the culvert on Coates Road. The grant requires the project be completed by June 30, 2022. Buckland, Colrain, Heath, Montague, Orange and Whately are also benefiting from pieces of the roughly $4 million in grant funding from the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration to replace failed culverts.

The letter notifying Giarusso of the grant award states the Baker-Polito administration hopes “to encourage Massachusetts communities to replace degraded, undersized culverts with better designed structures intended to meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards.” The letter also states that by meeting these standards, towns increase climate change readiness “by restoring natural river processes and by improving public safety through reduction of roadway and flood hazards.”

A second letter received by Giarusso last week confirmed the Baker-Polito administration approved another grant for $675,000 to support Leyden’s East Hill Road project, as outlined in a 2020 MassWorks Infrastructure Program application.

“That made $1 million within a couple of weeks,” Giarusso said of this notice.

According to the second grant notice, Leyden will have the ability to update the project scope and adjust the timeline for this project during the contracting phase, and a member of the MassWorks team will reach out to the town to discuss next steps. The grant commitment is also contingent upon successful execution of a contract no later than Sept. 30, with a timeline that confirms the project will be complete within three years.

“I love what (Gov. Charlie) Baker and (Lt. Gov. Karyn) Polito are doing, because they make you prove to earn the money,” Giarusso said. “As long as (the state) has the money to give to these programs, I think it’s a win-win for the towns that can apply.”

She said towns across Franklin County and the state will need to continue their efforts in applying for various grants, as Chapter 90 funding has been level-funded since 2012, making it difficult for towns to allocate sufficient funding for projects.

“When you’re getting a fixed amount, and it doesn’t increase, you can only do like one project a year,” she said. “We usually save Chapter 90 money for pavement projects and that’s about all we can do.”

Giarusso also noted that when it comes to bridges and culverts, projects can average around half a million dollars for design and construction. She said many grants are not matching grants, alleviating what could be a “cost-prohibitive” responsibility for towns.

“Even a 25 percent match could be cost prohibitive on a $500,000 project for a small town like Leyden,” Giarusso explained.

Applying for these grants allows the town to fund needed repairs to infrastructure without increasing taxes.

“A town like Leyden just can’t make that through their taxes,” Giarusso said.

Last year, repairs to the Simon Keets Road bridge were completed with grant funding following an unsatisfactory inspection in May 2017 that limited the bridge to one lane of traffic, with a three-ton weight limit, for three years. Also last year, Giarusso applied for and received a $40,000 IT grant that was used to buy financial software and hardware for the town, avoiding the need to pay for these through the town’s annual budget.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.

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