Amherst hears requests for CDBG funding

  • In this 2014 photo, Martha Wheeler, of Belchertown, left, picks a butternut squash as Jeff Roth-Howe, a volunteer at the Amherst Survival Center. The center is one of many social service agencies in Amherst requesting money from the Community Development Block Grant. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 08, 2018

AMHERST — A second phase of constructing a multiuse path on East Hadley Road to make the street in South Amherst more pedestrian friendly will depend on Community Development Block Grant funding.

The town is seeking $500,000 for building the 8- to 10-foot wide path so that residents of the numerous apartment complexes in the area can more easily get to West Street and Groff Park.

Amherst is a minientitlement community, defined by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development as one with a statistical need based on the population of low- and moderate-income residents. As such, the town will receive $825,000 in CDBG funds this year, with $801,250 available for capital projects and social service programs. Of this amount, 80 percent, or $536,250, is available for projects that benefit low- and moderate-income residents, with the remaining $165,000 going to agencies.

Senior Planner Nathaniel Malloy said building a multiuse path was identified in a recent survey called “Getting Around Amherst.” The survey uncovered a need to enhance safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, and make sure people living in the neighborhood could more easily get to services.

Malloy said this money should be enough to build the path west, from West Street to Whippletree Lane, with plans to later extend it to the Hadley town line.

A station for the Valley BikeShare, which will provide electric assist bikes that can be used for commuting, will be installed along this path this spring, Malloy said.

The application for the funding, written by Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek, said that the path would serve 2,635 residents, of which 1,550 are considered of low or moderate income.

“Residents often walk in the road and do not use the sidewalk or crosswalks, creating dangerous, unsafe conditions,” Ziomek wrote.

The money would supplement $347,956 appropriated last year that went toward designs and initial work on the path.

Transition to accessibility

Another $60,000 is being sought to update the transition plan that will eventually ensure that all public facilities, buildings and sidewalks included are handicapped accessible.

Malloy said self-evaluations will show what barriers exist and make recommendations, such as how to provide accessibility to conservation areas. A consultant will be hired and staff will assist with the work.

Social service programs

Among the social service agencies that submitted applications for funding are the Amherst Survival Center, which has asked for $65,000 for its food pantry, Family Outreach of Amherst, requesting $50,000 for community housing support, Amherst Community Connections, seeking $50,000 for its one-stop resource center, and the Amherst Boys and Girls Club asking for $45,000 for programs and build out of its new facility

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County has applied for $40,000 for youth mentoring in partnership with the Amherst Regional Public Schools Family Center, $30,000 is being sought by the Literacy Project for adult literacy classes and college and job readiness skills, and the Center for New Americans is asking for $20,000 for immigrant education.

Malloy said there is a cap of five agencies that can be funded and the CDBG Committee focused on ones that meet needs of food, housing and literacy for extremely low income residents.

The recommendations will be reviewed by the Select Board in advance of Bockelman submitting the application, which is due March 2.

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