I feel like I was all over the district this week for different events and meetings, both in-person and virtually, as I continue to hear from people in our communities. COVID-19 has affected our lives in so many different ways, and the economic and public health challenges we face moving forward are clear. One area that I don’t think is being talked about enough is the effect this pandemic has had on mental health and those struggling with substance use disorders. These are issues we cannot ignore, and I believe this pandemic has put even more pressure on those struggling with mental health and addiction. That is why in the coming weeks, I will be putting together a group of relevant stakeholders and health experts, to hold conversations about these issues and discuss how we can help those struggling in our communities moving forward. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to me.
I began my Monday by having a meeting over phone with Lynn Clark, the Superintendent of Schools in Chicopee. Chicopee will begin school in a hybrid model starting on September 15th, and we will be monitoring all school systems in our district as the year begins. Shortly after this call, my staff and I had a very informative meeting with the MassDOT Highway Division. We went over a number of projects that are being planned around our district, including the Route 10/202 (Southwick Rd.) bridge replacement project in Westfield. This project will realign Southwick Rd/South Maple St. to provide a softer curve and improve the intersections of City View and Mill, and will include Northbound left turn lanes and buffered bike lines. I will keep pushing for these projects in our district that will greatly improve quality of life for our residents. I wrapped up my Monday by having a meeting with ROCA, a non-profit organization that focuses on helping high-risk young men and young mothers in our communities through a 4 year intervention model. They focus on outreach and building relationships with young people, and help them get the resources they need to maintain jobs and stay out of dangerous situations.
Tuesday morning I headed over to the 104th Fighter Wing to meet with Mayor Humason and Wing Commander Col. William T. Bladen. As the third largest employer for our local economy I look forward to these continued conversations, as it is vital we keep our jobs growing. Later Tuesday afternoon, I had a meeting with John Bowen of the Westfield Planning Board, where a lot of our focus was on the Westfield Bike and Levee Project.
Wednesday was all Agawam! I began the day by having a meeting with the Agawam Housing Authority, where I learned more about the different residencies in Agawam and all the different resources they provide. I then joined the Agawam Council on Aging at the Senior Center to pass out lunches to constituents who came by. Later that afternoon, I had an introductory meeting with Peter Carmichael from Six Flags New England about the current state of affairs for the park and how their employees are doing, many of whom reside in Agawam and all over our district.
I began Thursday morning with some coffee with constituents at Circuit Coffee in Westfield. Speaking directly to constituents, and hearing what is on their mind is my favorite part of the job, and I pride my office on being as accessible as possible to you all. Shortly after, I headed over to Easthampton to tour and talk to some local businesses alongside City Councilor Owen Zaret. We started off at Tandem Bagel Company, and hit a bunch of businesses on Cottage Street, including
Wedge Works Art & Home and The Water’s Fine Goods and Coffee. I fully understand the decimating impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy, and I will continue to talk to small businesses and help wherever I can. I’m grateful to Council Zaret for showing me around, and we stopped by the Easthampton Fire Department to talk with Chief Norris as well. I finished the day in Westfield, where I met with some more constituents, MassDOT, and City Officials to continue to listen in on the conversations surrounding the Westfield Bike and Levee Project.
Friday Morning started with a meeting with Western Mass Housing first, and other local community partners, where we discussed housing and food insecurity issues in our communities. Shortly after this meeting, I joined State Representative Aaron Vega for lunch at the Crave Food Truck in Holyoke. Rep. Vega will be finishing up his time in the legislature this session, and while I will deeply miss our collaboration, I know that our friendship will continue on. Post lunch, Rep. Vega and I met with Damien Cote, Holyoke’s Building Commissioner to discuss building regulations and legislation. I then drove over to Granville, where I was proud to present a Senate Citation to Cooley Buy, and her company for their new business opening! Their new store at 66 Granby Road is a renovation of an old barn, and promotes local artists work such as pottery, woodworking, textiles, and glasswork. I encourage you all to check them out.
While this week was busy traveling across the district, I was able to pause for a moment to pay my respects and express my condolences to the loved ones of two incredible members of the Westfield community that we lost this week, Brian Hoose and John Knapik. Their dedication and advocacy to our community was known far and wide, and they will be greatly missed.
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 phone:
(413) 572-3920, and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com.
John C. Velis