Soldiers’ Home hearings, state budget top Velis’ week

I hope this week was good to everyone! It was certainly a busy week for me. I want to remind everyone that in addition to in-person voting on November 3
rd, there is early in-person voting at a secure location in your City or Town until October 30th. You can go to MassEarlyVote.com for more information or give my office a call-we’d be happy to help. Make sure you have a plan to
Based on this Thursday’s COVD-19 Community-Level Data report, there has been an increase in cases recently in our district. Westfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee are currently in the “red” (higher risk) category, while Southwick, Agawam and Easthampton are currently in the “yellow” (moderate risk) category. We need to continue to wear masks and socially distance in order to
stop this spread and keep our families safe. Free State testing is still available in Holyoke at Holyoke Community College and the Holyoke Veterans Benefits Department. Please contact my office with any questions about testing and resources.
This week, we held our first public hearings for the Legislature’s Soldiers’ Home Oversight Committee where we heard directly from family members who lost loved ones. Tuesday’s hearing was held at Holyoke Community College, and Thursday’s hearing was held virtually.
The stories that were shared were heartbreaking, and I can tell you that each of us on the Committee was deeply affected. Hearing these experiences was essential to fully understand what changes must be made at the Home. I’m so grateful to those who testified and those who have spoken to me personally. Their strength is inspiring, and we will continue to work closely with family members as we move through this process. Next week, the Committee will be
holding two public hearings for staff connected to the Soldiers’ Home to share their perspective, with an in-person hearing on Tuesday at Holyoke Community College and a virtual hearing on Thursday.
This past Thursday the Senate convened in an informal session and unanimously adopted a resolution to support bringing F-35A Fighter Jets to the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base. The resolution, which is directed towards U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Major General Gary Keefe noted the importance of bringing these F-35As to Westfield. Last month, I sent my own letter to Secretary Barrett advocating for the 104th Fighter Wing to be selected for the F-35As—I’m ecstatic to have the support of the entire State Senate on this as well. The impact this airframe conversion would have, not just on the Fighter Wing but on the entire Westfield community, cannot be understated. I will continue advocating however I can.

State Sen. John C. Velis participates in a Legislative Oversight Committee hearing on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

I also had a number of great meetings with constituents and local organizations this week. Early Monday, I met with the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce to discuss various topics such as the Soldiers’ Home and East-West Rail possibilities. On Wednesday, I spent the day at the
Statehouse for some meetings, including a virtual meeting with the Holyoke Taxpayers Association. I appreciate them taking the time out of their evening to discuss how taxpayers have been impacted by the pandemic. On Monday, I had an informative legislative briefing with Holyoke Community College officials, where we discussed some of the College’s priorities and budgetary needs. We need to support our schools at all levels, and I am strongly advocating for at least level funding for our public education systems throughout the budget process. After the briefing, I went over to Mount Tom Quarry to learn more about ongoing projects at the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Friday brought with it a Committee Hearing for the Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery Committee, where we held a listening session on trends in behavioral healthcare during the pandemic. We must remember to always check in with those around us, even if they might seem okay, and my office is always available to share resources and connect people with the help they need.
I know some of you reached out to my office this week about the South Maple Street Bridge in Westfield and where it stands. After some conversations with MassDOT officials this week, I can tell you that the project is definitely progressing. On Tuesday, MassDOT had a preconstruction meeting and next week the Department is meeting with utility companies and town officials. Prior to bridge construction work, some relocation work by the utility companies is required and I know that the contractors are already starting to submit their baseline schedule.
I will be sure to keep everyone updated as this moves along. As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my
office. I can be reached at my email: [email protected] or by phone: (413) 572-3920 and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com.

John C. Velis

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