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Greenfield could receive millions in economic boost



Staff Writer
Thursday, August 02, 2018

GREENFIELD — A regional sludge disposal program could see state funding after the Legislature passed an economic development bill earlier this week.

The House passed a $1.5 billion bill early Wednesday morning that included $3.78 million for projects in Greenfield. The money was earmarked for projects including an anaerobic digester that could allow for regional sludge disposal, renovation of a municipal building and a study on improving regional transportation.

The money still has to be OK’d by Gov. Charlie Baker and then disbursed, but the legislation’s passage is a critical step for the annual economic bill.

According to Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, Baker has 10 days from when the bill was passed to sign it into legislation. Baker could still veto items from the bill.

Anaerobic digester

Greenfield could receive $1 million to start the construction of an anaerobic digester near the waste water treatment plant on Deerfield Street, which would set in motion the city’s plans for a regional sludge disposal program.

The Department of Public Works is still having a study completed on the possible cost of a digester, but Mayor William Martin said it could cost about $8 million. Martin said the study could be completed by November and was funded by money previously allocated by City Council.

Martin said the $1 million “gives us a good starting point for addressing the sludge disposal problem we have,” which he said involves rising costs due to limited disposal sites and transportation to farther locations.

Martin said the city has budgeted $400,000 for sludge disposal this year, which is up $80,000 from last year’s cost and $180,000 more than two fiscal years ago. He did not have a number the city could save by having the anaerobic digester.

A digester could turn sludge — a result of sewage treatment — into a usable product. Martin said the city’s sludge is disposed of at one of two locations, either Lowell or Cranston, R.I.

Martin believes the $8 million price tag could be distributed across several communities if the project is regionalized. More information, including the inclusion of other communities, could be known by spring 2019, Martin said.

Martin said the project could also receive funding from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The grant could pay for as much as 35 percent of the project, he said.

Municipal building improvements

The bill includes $2.5 million that could be used for the renovation and remediation of a municipal building at 34 Riddell St. Once completed, Martin said the city’s central maintenance and services departments would move to the location.

The site is also where the Greenfield Public Schools put its transportation vehicles.

A proposed skate park could also be brought closer to fruition. Martin said the proposed location of the park on Beacon Street that is part of the Riddell Street property could be cleared of buildings.

Transportation to outdoor attractions

The bill also has $150,000 aimed to help improve transportation options to Franklin County outdoor activities. Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Natalie Blais said the money will be used to determine what improvements can be made.

“Currently, when you get off the train in Greenfield, there is no easy way to get from the station to the incredible resources we offer in Franklin County,” she said.

She said she hopes the money can help to improve destinations like Zoar Outdoor and Berkshire East, while also improving small business traffic and overnight stays.

New England Learning Center for Women in Transition

Mark, D-Peru, said $130,000 was included in the bill to renovate the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT) building at 479 Main St. in Greenfield.

No representative was available for comment from the center at press time.