I hope you all had a great week. I have some updates regarding PFAS, Climate Project Grants, and RMV services to share this week, in addition to sharing about some meetings I had.
This past Thursday, the Department of Environmental Protection announced new regulations to protect our drinking water from PFAS with the biggest change being a new Maximum Containment Level of 20 ppt per the sum of 6 compounds. This new level provides a much higher degree of protection compared to the previous guidance of 70 ppt and Public Water Systems will have to begin quarterly sampling for PFAS in 2021. This is such an important
change; one that has been truly years in the making. Westfield was selected along with nine other communities to receive a $200,000 grant to continue their research and engineering on completely removing PFAS contamination from our water systems.
As Westfield’s State Rep., I worked closely with City Councilor Kristen Mello and other community members to bring our concerns to the State’s attention. After hard work from all involved, I’m ecstatic that action like this is finally taking place. The ultimate goal is to have water completely free of PFAS. These
new regulations and funding are important steps towards that goal and in the meantime help to protect our communities and our health.
Earlier this month, the RMV announced special hours for those 74 and older to renew their licenses in person. While this is an excellent initiative, the lack of currently open locations in Western Massachusetts means that many residents are unable to access these special hours. Last week, I joined many of my Western Mass. legislative colleagues in writing a letter to Secretary Pollack of MassDOT expressing concerns and requesting that the RMV locations in Greenfield and Easthampton be reopened. Our letter pointed out many of the transportation issues that exist with current locations and stressed the importance of extending senior hours to Western Mass. residents.
This week, MassDOT announced that the Greenfield RMV location will be reopening on October 13th, with dedicated Senior Service hours on Wednesdays. While this is no doubt an improvement, I am disappointed that Easthampton was not included, and am going to continue to work with my colleagues on this issue. If you are ever experiencing difficulties with the RMV,
whether it be getting a license or even just getting in contact with someone, please reach out to my office. We will place an inquiry, and have been highly successful at resolving issues.
Last week it was also announced that the State would be providing climate resiliency grants to cities and towns through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. The goal of this program is to identify climate hazards, develop strategies to improve resilience, and implement action to adapt to climate change. Several communities in the 2nd Hampden and
Hampshire received grants. Holyoke received a $135,000 grant for their Urban Forest Equity Plan. Easthampton received a $175,000 grant for Green Infrastructure and Resiliency Design for the City’s Cherry Street Project. Agawam received a $216,000 grant for their Stormwater Master
Plan. Granville also received a $27,000 grant for further Climate Change planning. It’s critical that we continue to address climate hazards that arise and these funds will go a long way in helping our communities invest in that work.
This past Tuesday evening, I had a meeting with the Russell Board of Selectman to discuss the Woronoco Bridge project. I look forward to continued conversations as I learn more about how I can best assist with this project as well as others in the town.
Wednesday was a day full of virtual meetings for me. I began with a Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus Meeting where I discussed some of the district specific issues we are facing with my legislative colleagues. Later that afternoon, Representative Dan Carey and I hosted a virtual discussion and briefing on Adult Day Programs in Western Mass with many of our legislative
colleagues in attendance. We had quite a few groups join us, including Riverside Industries, Valley Educational Associates, and Sunshine Village. It was eye-opening to hear of some of the challenges they have faced as a result of COVID-19 and it is clear that many are struggling during these difficult financial times. I’m grateful for their work in our communities and I will
continue to work to help them respond and recover. Later that afternoon, I had a legislative call with Senator-Elect Adam Gomez and local restaurant owners where we discussed Sports Gambling legislation and its possible impacts on our businesses and communities.
On Thursday I joined the Department of Veterans Services, the architecture firm Payette, and various veteran organizations for a zoom call discussing the plans for a new Holyoke Soldiers Home. It is critical that the input of veterans organizations and community members who know the home well is taken into account. Payette is looking for more input from the community and if anyone is interested in completing a survey in regards to what the new Home should provide, please reach out to my office.
Friday my staff joined the Easthampton Council on Aging to hand out lunches to residents who came by. Later that afternoon I had my bi-weekly meeting with President Royal of Holyoke Community College, where we discussed how the start of classes has been going.
On Saturday, I joined community members and volunteers to spend some time cleaning up the Westfield River. It’s always encouraging to see so many of our community out working together and it always feels good to get outside and make a tangible impact on our natural surroundings.
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