Athol board supports application for $950K street repair grant

Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli  Athol Town Hall.

Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli Athol Town Hall.

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-25-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL – The Selectboard has voted unanimously to support the application for a $950,000 Community Development Block Grant to improve several streets in town.

Planning and Development Director Eric Smith and Andrew Loew, director of Community Development and Resiliency Planning for the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, met with the Selectboard on Tuesday, Feb. 20, to bring the board and public up to speed on the application.

“This is the second year we’re working with CMRPC,” Smith told the board, “and they were successful, I want to remind the board and public, in bringing in $1.3 million for the project doing Lumber Street over, and then Canal (Street), from Main to South.

“That project will be beginning this summer, and we’re hoping the board will support this application for the next phase of this project, which is basically south from Lord Pond Plaza to the end at Jones, and then Freedom Street from Main to South.”

Loew told the board he has been working with Smith, Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, Assistant Planning Director Heidi Murphy, and Public Works Director Dick Kilhart to complete the grant application.

“The application is capped at $950,000 this year,” Loew said. “There’s a two-year limit on how much a town can receive $1.35 million, which has been waived this year. These are competitive grants and they do have an 18-month performance period.”

Loew provided more detail on the scope of the project, stating, “The project we’re applying for this year, in the FY24 budget cycle, covers about 1,100 feet of South Street and about 650 feet on Freedom Street, and some small portions of abutting streets.”

Loew said the project’s purpose is to rehabilitate aging roadways, which have not been repaved since the 1990s. Work will also include extension of the existing sidewalk system, he said, “some of which is in fairly good condition; other portions of which are absent or in very poor condition.”

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He added that sewer lines will also be upgraded to handle any infiltration or inflow issues and improvements made to parts of the storm water drainage system.

“The budget, inclusive of construction, engineering, and some project management time would be $853,000,” Loew said. “That’s out of a total budget that will most likely go up to $950,000. These numbers may change slightly between now and (submission of) the application, but this is very much in the ballpark.”

Loew pointed out that work on the application began after the town received the results of a public survey and residents had the chance to discuss their priorities and concerns at public meetings.

“Based on those meetings, the existing community plans, local knowledge, and the CDBG rules,” said Loew, “this is the project the town has elected to focus on.”

The Community Development Block Grant Program is a federal program funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, designed to assist low- and moderate-income communities, as well as eliminate blight. Applications are submitted for approval to the state’s Department of Housing and Livable Communities.

The deadline forAthol’s application is March 24 and, according to Loew, the town should be notified of a decision in late summer or early fall. Public comments on the project application should be submitted to Eric Smith no later than March 12 at esmith@townofathol.org.

No one on the Selectboard, or from the public, posed any questions or concerns following Loew’s presentation and the board voted unanimously to support moving ahead with the application.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.