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State Briefs: Last Mile Funding, Grant Awards
02:23PM / Friday, October 11, 2019
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State and local officials attend a 'bore core' drilling as Eversource places one of 2,400 utility poles in Blandford to support broadband.

State Sen. Adam Hinds takes a photo of Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at the core bore site.

BLANDFORD, Mass. — Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Blandford Select Board member Eric McVey and other local leaders observed a core bore drilling on Thursday afternoon to replace outdated utility poles and install broadband internet.

Blandford was awarded a Last Mile Infrastructure Grant worth $1.04 million in 2018 to deliver broadband access to residents. Following the demonstration, Baker announced $5 million supplemental funding for the Last Mile Program, which will cover roughly half the cost of connecting homeowners to newly installed networks in 21 eligible communities.

"Our administration has prioritized the Last Mile program because we recognize that access to broadband internet is critical for the success of families, businesses and communities in the 21st century economy," the governor said. "We are proud of our progress toward delivering broadband internet to every community in the commonwealth, including the progress we observed today in Blandford, and pleased to make an additional funding commitment to these communities."
The work in Blandford is being made possible by a $1.04 million Last Mile grant announced in 2018. More than 2,400 replacement utility poles will be installed as the result of these Last Mile efforts in Blandford alone and approximately 60,000 throughout all the Last Mile communities. 
Some $341,396 was awarded Friday, Oct. 11,  to improve habitat for native wildlife. The Habitat Management Grant Program grants are provided through the Department of Fish and Game's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Local awards are:
Great Barrington: $28,576 to the Nature Conservancyto create and improve old field and shrubland habitats at the Schenob Brook Preserve.
Lee: $13,655 to South Lee Associatesfor efforts to control invasive species on Housatonic River properties.
Lenox: $26,810 to remove the invasive hardy kiwi plant at Kennedy Park and Mass Audubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Baker-Polito administration has announced the availability of $8 million through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program. The grant and designation program, which was created in 2017 as part of Gov. Charlie Baker's Executive Order 569, provides communities with funding and technical support to identify hazards, develop strategies to improve resilience, and implement priority actions to adapt to climate change. With this announcement, made by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito during an event at University of Massachusetts at Lowell, the administration has now committed $25 million through the MVP program to help communities prepare for climate change.
The $8 million will fund MVP Planning and Action Grants. Planning Grants enable municipalities to work through a community-based workshop process to identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. Requests for response for action and planning grants are open until Nov. 14. 
MassDevelopment is making $500,000 in fiscal 2020 funding for the fourth round of the Commonwealth Places program, a collaborative initiative that leverages public support for placemaking projects in Massachusetts. The statewide program funds place-based, community-driven projects that revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts, such as art installations, public space improvements, bike trails, markets, and more.
Launched in 2016, Commonwealth Places aims to engage and mobilize community members to make individual contributions through the crowdfunding platform Patronicity, with the incentive of a dollar-for-dollar funding match (up to $50,000) from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal is reached within 60 days. Applicants are encouraged to apply early as funding is limited and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until Jan. 15, 2020. Communities, nonprofits, and other entities can learn more and apply here
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lee and Sen. Anne Gobi, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture announce that the Joint Committee has advanced legislation aimed at addressing the issue of contamination of drinking water sources by per-and-polyfluoroalkyl.
H.3851, carrying S.2284, "An Act promoting establishing an interagency PFAS task force" would establish a task force to review and investigate water and ground contamination of PFAS's in Massachusetts. The bill was filed by state Rep. Julian Cyr and state Rep. Kate Hogan with support from a number of watershed and environmental groups. It is now in the House Committee on Ways and Means. 
"Establishing a PFAS task force is an important first step in eliminating unsafe quantities of these toxic chemicals from our drinking water,” saidPignatelli. "I am proud of the steps Senator Cyr and Representative Hogan have made to address this critical issue impacting their communities, and I look forward to working with them in the future to prevent this from happening again.”
PFAS is a chemical used in products such as non-stick cookware and firefighting foam. PFAS have multiple negative health effects, including stunting growth and development in children, decreasing fertility, weakening the immune system, increasing the risk of getting cancer, and increasing the risk of getting high cholesterol. The EPA advises that no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS should be in drinking water. Often referred to as "forever chemicals," they can remain in our bodies and the environment. 
Complementing this legislative effort, the supplemental budget bill filed by Gov. Charlie Baker in September contained key funding provisions for PFAS testing and mitigation as part of $60 million in investments related to clean drinking water.

Mary McCauley is sworn in as director of the office of Disability.
The Baker-Polito administration on Oct. 3 appointed Mary Mahon McCauley of Quincy as director of the Massachusetts Office on Disability. McCauley holds a bachelor's degree and master's of education degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is also a licensed rehabilitation counselor. 
"Mary Mahon McCauley is a dedicated public servant who has devoted her career to expanding access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "We look forward to her continued service to the Commonwealth and her leadership at MOD."
MOD, an agency of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, provides training on disability non-discrimination, administers the Municipal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) grant program, and helps executive branch agencies comply with the ADA and related disability rights laws, among its other support services.
McCauley succeeds David D'Arcangelo, who is now commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. She has served at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission since 1989, most recently as its area director for Downtown Boston. She has worked on vocational rehabilitation and job placement for persons with disabilities. In 2008, she was honored with the Thomas J. Carroll Award for Employment as the Blind Employee of the Year for demonstrating the highest degree of excellence.


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