Hadley seeks $532K  in block grant money

Staff Writer
Saturday, February 08, 2020

HADLEY — A program that would give income-eligible homeowners interest-free loans to rehabilitate their dwellings, along with planning projects that could lead to renovations of the former Russell School building and making municipal buildings fully accessible, could be supported through federal block grant money.

The Select Board voted Wednesday to submit an application for $531,600 seeking the Community Development Block Grant money from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the federal funding in Massachusetts.

The application is due March 6.

Christopher Dunphy, a principal planner for Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, said Hadley has not always been eligible for this source of money, but that it can compete for what is considered leftover funding in fiscal year 2020.

Under the largest portion of the application, $360,000 would go toward a housing rehabilitation program to improve both owner-occupied homes and rental properties.

Interest-free, deferred payment loans would be available to eligible homeowners for improving building systems, such as weatherization, fixing building code violations, and removing hazardous materials.

Dunphy anticipates there would be enough money for about 12 homeowners, with the average unit cost estimated at $25,000, though more could spent on projects for removal of lead paint and other hazards.

The re-use feasibility study, at $76,000, could determine what might be done with the former Russell School, which has mostly sat idle since June 2015, when the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens moved out. The study would not provide money for any immediate improvements to the historic 19th-century building.

The Russell School Subcommittee of the Municipal Building Committee is already preparing a summary of options that it might present to Town Meeting. Last August, estimates were presented that any project to renovate the building would cost between $20 and $22 million. 

Finally, $44,000 would be used to craft an Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, identifying ways to make town buildings accessible.

The remaining $55,000 in the block grant application would go toward administrative costs and support. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.