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With the new calendar year comes a new website for the FRCOG, and through that, a new way of posting and sharing our quarterly newsletter. We hope you find this newsletter to be more accessible on mobile devices, and encourage you to take a spin through the new website after catching up on what we’ve been up to this past quarter.

Advocacy

Rural Policy Advisory Commission

The Rural Policy Advisory Commission has identified its legislative agenda for the new legislative session. Priorities include: establishment of an Office of Rural Policy, 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, and creating more options for municipal housing development.

Learn more about the Rural Policy Advisory Commission

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

Climate Resilience & Land Use

Montague “Five Villages: One Future” Comprehensive Plan

FRCOG staff have tallied the results of the Montague Comprehensive Plan survey and will continue to build on this community vision via in-person and virtual community workshops in February and March. The workshops will ask residents to think about how best to bring the town’s land use, transportation infrastructure, economic development, housing, municipal services, and more into the future. Work will begin on the plan’s Transportation, Climate Change, and Housing chapters in the spring. Survey results and the workshop schedule are available online at: www.montagueplans.org.

Housing Production Plans (HPPs)

FRCOG is working with the towns of Whately and Orange to produce Housing Production Plans, which will develop specific strategies to help each town either work toward (Whately) or maintain (Orange) the statewide goal established in Chapter 40B of 10% affordable housing in each community.  Those who live or work in Orange are encouraged to fill out a community survey in English or Spanish.  Work will continue on these projects in 2023, with community meetings and collaboration with the towns to develop and finalize the plans.

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

Community Health

Health Needs for the Region

FRCOG Community Health staff again served as the consultants for the region’s Community Health Needs Assessment, gathering a broad range of data on local health needs and compiling them into a report for Baystate Franklin Medical Center. The report can be viewed online and will be presented at an upcoming Council meeting.  This data is used for planning by BFMC, local human service organization, and our Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).

FRCOG Awarded Public Health Training Funds

As part of the multi-year process of modernizing Massachusetts’ local public health infrastructure that is funded through ARPA dollars, the state Dept. of Public Health is creating a state-wide credentialing and training program. This work will ensure that a food inspection in Provincetown is the same as one in Pittsfield, for example, and reduce the inconsistencies in public health protections across the Commonwealth. As part of this project, the FRCOG has been awarded one of the ten Regional Field Training Hub grants. This will allow us to hire local public health staff to provide field training to all public health collaboratives funded by the Public Health Excellence Program in Franklin and Hampshire Counties.

More Information: Phoebe Walker at [email protected] or ext. 102.

Economic Development

Rural Downtown District Project

The FRCOG was awarded a $171,000 MA Efficiency and Regionalization grant to support downtown revitalization and evaluate potential organizational structures to implement and sustain initiatives over the long term in downtown Greenfield, Turners Falls and Shelburne Falls. Over the next 18 months, FRCOG will work with stakeholders from Buckland, Greenfield, Montague and Shelburne, as well as regional and state partners on this pilot project. Grant funds will be used to hire consultants who will engage community stakeholders, identify critical economic issues, and assess potential organizational structures for downtown district management. The consultants will recommend the organizational structure(s) that best suit these rural communities individually or in cooperation with each other. The lessons learned from this pilot project may help other rural communities seeking to enhance their commercial downtowns.

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

Emergency Preparedness

Popular First Responder Training Series Return

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council is offering two of its popular training series. Both trainings are virtual and will be held in February.

  • Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in First Responder organizations affords leadership a unique opportunity to delve into how mental health injuries affect the first responder community, hear from colleagues who have taken steps to successfully address mental health in the workplace, and begin to develop an action plan. Designed specifically for police, fire, dispatch, EMS and other first responders, this training is also applicable to municipal leaders and other agencies seeking to support the well-being of their personnel who work regularly with the public, especially in high-stress environments. Thursdays in February. Registration is free and required.
  • The De-escalation Training Series is designed for any frontline personnel as they encounter people who present as hostile or readily escalate to hostile with minimal stimulus. The series provides: de-escalation techniques, strategies to prevent disruption, strategies to manage challenging group dynamics and techniques to support front line personal. Wednesdays in February. Registration is free and required.

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

Strengthening Regional Emergency Preparedness

The Commonwealth has awarded the FRCOG $147,855 for an 18-month project that includes: updating regional emergency plans, writing a new FRCOG draft response plan, preparedness coalition building activities, assessing the need for a new preparedness coalition, and implementing other recommendations from the Ardent After Action Report. This grant runs through June 30, 2024 and will begin when staffing capacity in the Emergency Preparedness Program allows for it.

More Information: Xander Sylvain at [email protected] or ext. 135.

Shared Municipal Services

Direct Local Technical Assistance (DLTA)

The project solicitation form for FY24 District Local Technical Assistance grant funds is out and municipal officials are asked to send one prioritized list of project requests to the FRCOG by January 27th, if possible.

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

Transportation

Franklin County Regional Transportation Plan

FRCOG Staff are working to update the Franklin County Regional Transportation Plan. The RTP is a comprehensive accounting of transportation needs, issues, facilities, and potential funding needed for the regional transportation network over a 25-year time horizon. The last RTP was updated in 2020.

The FRCOG is looking for public input, and there are a number of ways to provide input including an online survey, an online interactive map, and public outreach sessions. See the following links to access online resources and get further information.

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

Passenger Rail

  • The Valley Flyer marketing has continued to have a strong response. The campaign was focused on digital outlets which proved to be highly effective channels for the messaging in the past and utilized funding provided by MassDOT.
  • The legislation to create a W MA Passenger Rail Commission includes a seat for the FRCOG Executive Director. Hearings about the Commission are being held over the next several weeks. The Franklin County Hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 24th beginning at 10:00 at the Transit Center.
  • More than 150 people attended a public meeting of the Northern Tier Passenger Rail Feasibility Study held on January 10th. MassDOT and their consultants presented two possible alternatives for train service along the corridor.  The consultants working for MassDOT will assess the feasibility, cost, ridership potential and required upgrades for these and four additional service options.  To review the presentation and offer feedback, go to https://www.mass.gov/northern-tier-passenger-rail-study.

More Information: Linda Dunlavy at [email protected] or x 103.

Staff Updates

Two Senior Planners have assumed greater leadership roles within the Planning Department in the late fall. We congratulate Beth Giannini on her promotion to Transportation Program Manager, and Megan Rhodes on her promotion to GIS Program Manager and Planning Coordinator.

We were sorry to have to say goodbye to Regional Health agent Lisa Danek-Burke upon her resignation this October, and wish her well in her new endeavors!

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