MORRISON – The selectboard met Wednesday night for its regularly scheduled meeting, and beforehand hosted a public information session regarding an update of the town’s community development strategy.
On hand for the information session was M.J. Adams, Director of Community Development for the Alexander County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, who provided information and answered questions regarding steps that need to be taken for the town to be eligible for community development block grants. According to town coordinator Nancy Aldrich, Wendell has not been applying for such grants over the past several years because it did not fit the criteria necessary, and had been consistently passed over for such funding.
The state has recently changed its criteria, however, and the changes could be beneficial to the town. In what was the first step in what will be a continuing process, Adams set out some of the guidelines that the state is looking for in grant applications. First she explained that the grant process is competitive, and largely based upon the needs of moderate and low income residents. The state uses a formula based upon several factors to come up with what is called a community needs score. The score for a town can range from zero to 35, and the higher the number, the higher the needs for a particular town. Wendell, which had been at a sore of 28, is now at a 31, which puts it in a better position when it applies to receive grant assistance.
Adams explained that the state wants to see a planning process that lays out what a town’s needs are, and that any projects undertaken with grant money benefit those with a moderate to low household income. She advised the board to put begin discussions and to put down on paper some of the projects that would fit into this mold as the first step in the process. There was a brief discussion of what some of these projects might be, which included senior and low income housing, but time constraints limited the conversation. The board agreed that it would do some research and revisit the issue in the near future. Adams was also clear that these are regional grants, and that Wendell would not be submitting a stand-alone application, but would be included in the application with other area towns.
In its regular meeting, the board first followed up on the inquiry from the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse to tie in to the town’s water and septic system. Aldrich, who spoke to both a drinking water specialist and a wastewater specialist from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said that there are a couple of avenues that could be taken, but more information regarding the system’s capacity is needed to determine whether such a tie-in will be possible.
Aldrich also informed the board that funds received in a grant from the DEP for responsible recycling will come with some conditions. The grant money must be put into its own fund, and be used for specific purposes. These include but are not limited to compost bins, recycling carts, and roll-off containers for recycling. The town will also be required to keep track of the fund, and send an annual report, along with receipts, to the DEP.
The board unanimously voted to become part of a newly forming veterans district, which is called the Upper Pioneer Valley Veterans Services District. The new district will take the place of the Central Franklin County Veterans District. Assessments for the town’s contributions to the new district will fluctuate in the first few years, but are in line with what the town has been contributing to the former district in years past.
The board also approved the final design for the town flag, which will eventually fly at the State House in Boston. Artists Donna Horn and Pam Richardson collaborated on the design. Board members also said that they will send a letter thanking all of those who submitted design ideas, and will also create a collage of all of the submitted designs to be displayed publicly. An application for a cultural council grant has been submitted to offset the costs of creating the hand-made flag, and the board approved the purchase of supplies needed for the next phase of the project to begin.