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Happy spring from all of us at the FRCOG! Things are warming up in our region, and we are feeling energized by the progress we’ve made via legislative advocacy, the new programs and initiatives we have in the works, and the many staff changes and additions we experienced in the past quarter. Take a look below to catch up on what we’ve been up to!

Advocacy

The Rural Policy Advisory Commission’s top priority–the establishment of an Office of Rural Policy–was realized at an announcement by Governor Healey in Deerfield on March 10th. The Governor announced the creation of a Director of Rural Affairs to be housed in the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development and whose role is to understand rural issues and advocate across state secretariats to ensure rural issues are understood and being addressed in state policy and funding. Other RPAC legislative priorities are:

  • fully funding and changing the formula of PILOT
  • increasing the funding and changing the formula of Chapter 90
  • creating a funded municipal building authority
  • passing the public health SAPHE legislation
  • creating more options for municipal housing development.

Learn more about the Rural Policy Advisory Commission and the Rural Policy Plan.

FRCOG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy alongside Governor Healey at the March 10th Office of Rural Policy Announcement event.
Climate Change & Land Use

Regional Pollinator Grant

FRCOG Planning Staff will kick off the  expansion of the Regional Pollinator Plan with several workshops over the summer. Workshops will be held in Ashfield, Buckland, Colrain, Deerfield, and Shutesbury to identify locations and opportunities for potential pollinator habitat and linkages. In preparation for the town workshops, FRCOG staff are working on creating maps that will be used for the landscape scale analysis. An additional workshop will reconvene representatives from the eight municipalities that participated in the original Regional Plan. The workshop will provide attendees an opportunity to share their successes with implementing their pollinator action plans, and any challenges they have faced. Stay tuned for future events!

This project is funded through the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).

More Information: Kimberly Noake MacPhee at [email protected] or ext. 130.

This bee has done an AMAZING job collecting pollen here in Franklin County!

Regional Housing Plan

Since the FRCOG’s 2014 Franklin County Regional Housing Study, much has changed in terms of the housing market and affordability.  To understand these changing conditions and its impact on the region, FRCOG staff will produce a Regional Housing Plan later this year. In addition to conducting a housing affordability analysis by county subregion, the FRCOG will reach out to towns, developers, nonprofits, and advocacy groups to understand the housing needs, issues, and potential strategies to ensure the presence of appropriate and affordable housing for both current and future generations of Franklin County residents.

More Information: Megan Rhodes at [email protected] or ext. 132.

Community Health

Cannabis Advertising Advocacy Planning Underway

The Communities that Care Coalition’s Regional Policy and Norms Workgroup has been convening a subcommittee on Cannabis Billboards.  Massachusetts cannabis regulations state that cannabis billboard advertising is prohibited “unless 85% of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data.”  Yet Western Massachusetts has dozens of cannabis billboards – including next to schools and parks – and the CCC has not requested audience composition data from advertisers.

The subcommittee is exploring advocacy options and welcomes ideas and new members.

More Information: Nick Hathaway at [email protected].

This marijuana billboard, located next to one of our CTC ads encouraging parents to talk with their kids about drugs and alcohol was taken in the Greenfield CVS parking lot that overlooks a grade school.

Providing Field Training to Local Health Departments

Part of the DPH Public Health Excellence grant program is an investment in local public health training for Board of Health members, Health Directors, Agents, Inspectors, and Public Health Nurses. The MA Departments of Public Health and Environmental Protection are adding staff in order to deliver a standardized, consistent set of Environmental Health staff trainings, including housing, camp, pool, septic, and soil inspection trainings. These will be mandatory for all staff working in Health Departments participating in a PHE grant. After the classroom (or online) portion of each training is done, staff will receive a standardized field training as well, at one of ten Regional Field Training Hubs selected by DPH.

For Western Massachusetts, the Field Training Hubs are based at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (covering Berkshire and Hampden Counties) and the FRCOG (covering Franklin and Hampshire Counties). The Franklin/Hampshire Training Hub will be led by Bri Dupras, the FRCOG’s Lead Field Trainer for the region, including the five Public Health Excellence (PHE) shared service arrangements that cover all towns in Franklin County (see map). Bri started in late March, and will be in touch with the region’s PHE Leads and Health Directors/Agents in the coming weeks to set up introductory meetings.

More Information: Bri Dupras at [email protected].

Map showing the Public Health Excellent grant districts that comprise the Franklin-Hampshire Public Health Field Training Hub
Economic Development

Digital Equity Planning and Implementation

The Towns of Montague and Whately selected the FRCOG as their respective consultant for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s (MBI) Municipal Digital Equity Planning program. FRCOG staff will work with each of these communities to create a digital equity plan to be incorporated into their respective comprehensive/master plan updates. Digital equity refers to ensuring that residents have access to broadband services (including it being affordable and sufficient bandwidth), access to devices, and digital literacy. Each plan will include an analysis of existing conditions and recommendations to enhance access to digital equity programs.

There is also an effort underway to create a multi-town digital equity plan in Franklin County. Led by the Town of Northfield, the regional plan also includes Charlemont, Colrain and Orange. It is not too late for additional Franklin County municipalities to join this regional effort, but time is running out. There is no cost for municipalities to participate, as consultant services are paid for by the MBI.

More Information: Jessica Atwood at [email protected] or ext. 123.

Emergency Preparedness

Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) Equipment Purchases

WRHSAC has purchased Protective Fire Shelters for the Franklin County Hand Crew. Hand crews are assigned duties on wildland and prescribed fires that primarily consist of constructing firelines with hand tools and chainsaws, burning out areas using drip torches and other firing devices, mop-up or clean-up, and rehabilitation of burned areas. Hand Crew members can use the individual protective fire shelters as a last resort if planned escape routes or safety zones become inadequate and entrapment is imminent. WRHSAC purchased and distributed 30 shelters and 10 practice fire shelters.

WRHSAC has updated its portable multi-band radio caches in Berkshire and Hampden Counties with Motorola APX8000 portable radios. Each cache now includes eight APX8000 radios, individual carrying cases, remote mic/speaker and a bank charger. The radios are available for emergency incidents and planned events on a first come, first serve basis. The Berkshire cache is housed at Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office. The Hampden cache is housed at Monson Police Department. Visit WRHSAC’s online interactive map for borrowing information. https://wrhsac.org/resources/interactive-resource-map/.

More Information: Raine Brown at [email protected] or ext. 138.

Shared Municipal Services

Upcoming Trainings

Narcan Train-The-Trainer Certification

The CPHS health district will offer a free training aimed at municipal employees, local officials, and community members. Interested in learning how to identify an opioid overdose and how to respond AND teach others to do the same? Health Resources in Action will provide the training–there is a section on how to become an effective trainer so these skills can spread throughout our towns!  (This training has as self-paced, 90-minute virtual component prior to the in-person training on May 26th).

More Information: Maureen O’Reilly at [email protected] or ext. 206.

Food Safety Course

CPHS Program Manager Randy Crochier will be teaching a three-in-one food safety certification on May 10th. Attendees will be able to test for the ServeSafe and Choke Saver certifications required by the Food Code and a Restaurant First Aid training as well. Information at this link on the FRCOG website: https://frcog.org/event/food-safety-3-in-1-certification-class/.

More Information: Liz Jacobson-Carroll at [email protected] or ext. 142.

Local Public Health Power Hour Workshops

FRCOG’s new Public Health Field Trainer is hosting one-hour workshops in April, May and June on local for boards of health and health department staff. Registration links and flyers will soon be able to be found on the FRCOG website calendar:

More Information: Bri Dupras at [email protected].

Grant Informational Series

With legislative and RPA partners, a series of grant informational sessions is starting again this Spring.

As sessions get scheduled, we will post them, on our event calendar and Municipal Resources page.

More information: Linda Dunlavy at [email protected] or ext. 103.

Transportation

Bike Breakfast 2023

The Franklin County Bike Breakfast is back for 2023 and will be held on Tuesday, May 16th from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. outside of the John W. Olver Transit Center.  All are welcome to stop by and enjoy some light morning refreshments and to learn more about the FRCOG’s and FRTA’s efforts to promote and improve biking across Franklin County.

More Information: Jack Carolan at [email protected] or ext. 164.

Event Flyer (PDF, 503 KB)

Bike breakfast flyer with image of bicycle.

Franklin County Regional Transportation Plan  

FRCOG staff continue to update the Franklin County Regional Transportation Plan. The FRCOG collected public input through an online survey, an online interactive map, and public outreach sessions from December 2022 through March 2023. Staff compiled and synthesized results of the survey, the online interactive map, and the feedback from meetings to provide input while drafting the RTP update. The draft document will be available for public review in late May 2023. The public review opportunity will be advertised on the FRCOG’s website and social media. Additional information about the plan can be found on the FRCOG website.

More Information: Beth Giannini at [email protected] or ext. 125.

Staff Updates

Keith Barnicle headshot.Keith Barnicle has been with us for almost 2 years now as an economic Development Special Projects Planner; effective in April, Keith will now serve as the FRCOG’s Grant Specialist, where he will focus on state and federal grant opportunities to address municipal priorities. Congratulations on the new position, Keith!

This February, we welcomed Jack Carolan as a Transportation Planner. Jack, a Franklin County resident, is excited to bring his professional planning experience from the City of Holyoke and the town of Ware to his area of residence. We are pleased to have him with us– welcome, Jack!

 

As noted in the Public Health Field Training Hub article above, we welcome Bri Dupras, who joined us in late March in her role as Local Public Health Field Trainer. Bri has years of experience working with municipal health departments, and we are pleased to have her expertise to help shape this new position!

 

Former FRCOG Special Projects Planner Ted Harvey resigned in 2017, and we were sorry to see him go. We are very excited to have him back as of April! Ted now serves as our Senior Economic Development Planner. Welcome back to the FRCOG, Ted!

 

Liz Jacobson-Carroll transitioned out of her role as Administrative Services Assistant to the FRCOG overall, and will now serve as Administrative Clerk for the Field Training Hub and the CPHS Health District.  We will miss Liz at the front desk, but are very pleased she will remain here within the FRCOG; congratulations on the new position, Liz!

 

Gabriella Klinakis joined our Cooperative Inspection Program as their Permitting Coordinator and Administrative Assistant; Gabriella has several years experience in municipal Building Department administration, with prior work in Easthampton and Westfield. Welcome Gabriella, glad to have you with us!

 

In March, Accountant Moon Morgan retired from service after 10 years with the FRCOG. We were sorry to see him go, and wish him all the best in his retirement.  Our sadness over Moon’s departure is balanced by our pleasure in announcing long-time staff member Amanda Doster has taken on the role.  Amanda has worked within the Partnership for Youth and the FRCOG administration during her ten years with the FRCOG, and we are very pleased to welcome her to this new role!

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