Hadley CPA panel forwards COVID relief, park enhancement projects – GazetteNET

Hadley CPA panel forwards COVID relief, park enhancement projects<br />

Staff Writer

Published: 9/27/2020 7:24:23 PM

HADLEY — A program to assist residents unable to meet their rent payments, a plan for enhancing the historic West Street common and improvements to town cemeteries are in line to receive Community Preservation Act money.

The CPA Committee last week recommended several spending articles that will come before fall Town Meeting, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 17 at 10 a.m. outside one of Hadley’s public schools.

The COVID-19 relief fund, which would use $100,000 in CPA money for emergency rental assistance, is an idea that comes from the Housing and Economic Development Committee.

Molly Keegan, a member of that committee, said with at least 244 rental units in Hadley, the new fund would help people living paycheck to paycheck who may be unable to meet their rent obligations later this year or throughout 2021.

With hopes dimming for a second federal stimulus package, Keegan said having this money available for those who qualify makes sense.

Community Action Pioneer Valley would likely be contracted to administer the program, which it is already doing for a similar program in Amherst.

The CPA Committee had a lengthy discussion centered around a proposal by Department of Public Works Director Chris Okafor for landscape improvements on the West Street common.

Okafor said a three-to-five-year plan for improvements could involve Stephen Stimson Associates landscape architects, the company that previously handled renovations to Pulaski Park in downtown Northampton.

“It’s a concept that we think will not only beautify the space, but the surrounding environment will also benefit from this project,” Okafor said.

Okafor said because of the common’s proximity to Route 9, a project could include adding a lane along the road to provide dedicated parking, and making crossing the busy state highway safer.

CPA Committee member Denise Barstow said that if new parking is put in, it shouldn’t be done through paving over any existing greenspace.

Paulette Kuzdeba joined CPA Committee Chairman Edwin Matuszko in voting against a town common project. Kuzdeba said she is concerned that Okafor will need to get buy-in from the community and should develop a more detailed plan before a designer is hired.

“I believe that before we go out to bid or we go out for design service, we really need to know what we are going to design,” Kuzdeba said.

The committee’s recommendation comes with a stipulation that a designer would have a kickoff meeting and then at least two public sessions for assorted town committees to provide their say.

Finally, more than $150,000, in separate articles, would be used for continued improvements to town cemeteries, including $60,000 for repairing North Hadley Cemetery gravestones, $33,000 for repairing Russellville Cemetery gravestones and $65,000 for putting in a new fence at the Hockanum Cemetery.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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Author: The Covid-19 Channel