- In the last quarter staff testified in person and/or writing on several bills and issues of importance to Franklin County and municipalities:
- Two bills that would permanently codify the option for municipalities to hold fully-remote open meetings. The testimony asked the Legislature to oppose any bill that would require hybrid technology be used for all public meetings
- A bill requiring rural equity of state grants
- Creation of a Municipal Building Authority
- Rural housing needs in advance of issuance of a Housing Bond Bill
- Two housing bills that would increase local funding options for affordable housing development
- Legislation that would require private well water quality assessment.
- FRCOG began updating New Salem’s Open Space and Recreation Plan (OSRP) with the Town’s OSRP Committee at the end of this summer. Work continues on the Bernardston, Rowe, and Shelburne OSRPs (summaries of several drafted chapters of the Rowe OSRP have been posted in the Rowe StoryMap). The Wendell Open Space Committee finalized their 2023 update and it is now under review by the Division of Conservation Services.
Age Friendly Action Plan Release Planned for 11/16
Save the date for the launch of the Age and Dementia Friendly Franklin County and North Quabbin Action Plan. After a three-year planning process, LifePath and FRCOG are ready to launch the new Age- and Dementia Friendly Action Plan. Drawn from surveys of over 2000 residents, focus groups, and input from numerous organizations, reports, and assessments, the Plan sets goals over the next five years in eight different domains, including civic engagement, health care, social inclusion, housing, transportation, and more. Working on these priority strategies will help our community be both a better place to age, and a better place to live overall. Please RSVP and join us to learn more.
More Information: FRCOG website Age and Dementia Friendly Communities page; Meg Ryan at [email protected], or ext. 158.
COVID and Flu Vaccination Season is Here
The new COVID vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months. To make access easier for our rural residents, FRCOG staff coordinated with public health nurses around the region to schedule and promote a series of state-supported COVID and flu clinics, which are happening across the county in schools and senior centers. A frequently updated listing of the clinics and local pharmacies carrying the COVID vaccine and how to access it are on our website. While you are at the COVID section of the FRCOG website, take a look also at the updated pages on treatment, testing, and what to do if you test positive. Please feel free to share these pages with your friends and neighbors looking for information.
Digital Equity Planning and Implementation
FRCOG staff are supporting the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s (MBI) efforts to develop statewide digital equity and broadband plans to guide the use of federal funds coming to the Commonwealth. According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, “digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy.” FRCOG’s recent work included hosting the MBI’s October 3rd Listening Session and conducting a focus group at the Shelburne Falls Senior Center, as well as promoting the MBI’s Statewide Digital Equity Survey, which asks households about their internet access and usage, and helping organizations complete an online Digital Equity Asset Inventory to catalog existing programs that help residents access and use the internet. Data collected will also be used to inform local planning efforts.
FRCOG has been selected by the City of Greenfield to complete a Digital Equity Plan, as funded by the MBI. A Community Meeting and focus groups will be convened in the coming months to help inform the plan. A similar planning process is also underway for Montague, Whately, and for an 8-town regional plan (Charlemont, Colrain, Leyden, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Warwick and Wendell).
More Information: FRCOG website Municipal Digital Equity Planning Services page; Jessica Atwood at [email protected] or ext. 123.
Fire Extinguisher Training Equipment
WRHSAC has established a Bullseye Digital Fire Extinguisher training kit which is now available for loan on a free, first-come, first-serve basis. This training kit allows fire extinguisher training to be conducted in any setting fires actually occur – indoors, office buildings, schools, hospitals and more. The system is digital, does not use any dry-chemical or CO2 extinguishers, so there is no messy clean up. The realistic laser driven extinguishers and fire simulation panel simulate and respond like real extinguishers and fire for heightened training intensity.
The equipment is hosted by Westfield State University Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. First responder agencies, municipalities, schools and businesses throughout western Mass may borrow the equipment to conduct training in their agencies or communities.
More Information: Raine Brown at [email protected] or ext. 138.
FY24 Collective Purchasing
The Collective Purchasing Program provides bidding, contracting, and troubleshooting services to municipalities, districts, and non-profit agencies. The Purchasing Program can save participants money by volume discount buying. We also save time and avoid potential legal risks by assuring that legally-required bidding processes are properly followed.
- Winter Highway Bids have opened and we are in process of awarding for October 1 start date. Prices have settled from the volatility of the past few years. We are seeing more and more towns switch from regular rock salt and sand to organically treated salt which works at much lower temperatures and require less product to do their job.
- Contracts are also being awarded to 12 vendors for various Water Treatment Chemicals utilized by participating water and wastewater treatment facilities. Prices and supply chain issues have settled out, and the contracts will be effective October 1.
- FRCOG has taken the lead on a county-wide School Bus Transportation bid for up to a five-year contract. Bids are expected to be opened in December for the 2024-2025 school year.
Municipal Officials Trainings
Earlier in October, FRCOG Director of Municipal Services Bob Dean teamed up with Northfield Select board member Barbara (Bee) Jacque to offer “Select Board 101: a discussion about the ins and outs of being a select board member”. This online presentation & discussion offered an overview of Select Board member responsibilities and provided insights from long-serving members, while giving new members from around the region a chance to meet each other and to ask questions.
October is National Cybersecurity month, which is as good a reason as any to offer a reminder that all materials from our 2021 municipal cybersecurity training series remain both relevant and available on our website.
More Information: Bob Dean at [email protected] or ext. 108.
Safe Streets for All Grant (SS4A)
The FRCOG has been awarded funding to develop a regional transportation safety action plan for Franklin County through the new Federal Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program. The funding was awarded as part of a collaborative application submitted by the three rural regional planning agencies in Massachusetts: the FRCOG, the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC), and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
While each RPA will compile a separate safety action plan, the joint project was intended to facilitate discussion and collaboration between the rural RPAs about safety solutions geared to rural transportation settings. The FRCOG is currently soliciting a consultant to assist with the implementation of the project through a request for proposals process. We anticipate the work of the selected consultant will begin on December 1st, 2023, and be completed by August 1st, 2025. By developing a safety action plan the regions will become eligible to apply for project implementation funding through the SS4A program in the future.
Road Safety for Vulnerable Users
FRCOG Transportation Planning staff are completing an assessment of road safety for vulnerable users, including drivers over age 65 and all bicyclists and pedestrians. The final report includes an analysis of data from crashes involving vulnerable road users and identifies locations where vulnerable users are most at risk of being involved in a crash. These results will be combined with mapping and ranking of the most hazardous intersections in Franklin County. Moving forward, this work will be used to make recommendations to improve safety for vulnerable users at intersections.
More Information: Laurie Scarbrough at [email protected] or ext. 139.